Our work in science education focuses on clearly defining the educational mission, imparting improved student understanding of expectations in core courses, mentoring high-quality, quantitative research experiences, developing laboratory activities that integrate technology with exciting topic areas, and creating supplementary video instruction that provides some benefits of one-on-one instruction at the students’ convenience.
PEDAGOGY It is important for both instructors and students to have a clear understanding of the educational mission. On the road to academic maturity, instructors must recognize and help students overcome common misconceptions about learning quantitative subjects. Even for students who do not choose a quantitative major, the analytical skills that should be learned through successful completion of courses such as mathematics, physics and chemistry are important. They should graduate with skills that equip them to solve problems effectively in many contexts.
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Lt. Gen. Mike Gould, Nobel Laureate Dr. Carl Weiman, and Gen. Dana Born
stand with Dr. Michael Courtney (right) as he receives an
Outstanding Academy Educator award (U.S. Air Force Academy).
STUDENT ACTIVITIES AND RESEARCH Examples of integrated student projects include: acoustic methods for measuring the velocity of a potato from a potato cannon, teaching wave physics and Fourier analysis with a bass guitar, direct acoustic measurements of fall times (to compute gravitational acceleration), data analysis of problems in wildlife management, and integration of experimental rocketry into the science curriculum to study equations of motion and propellant chemistry.
Recent student projects include:
Acoustic Measurement of Potato Cannon Velocity
Teaching Fourier Analysis and Wave Physics with the Bass Guitar
Echo Based Measurement of the Speed of Sound
An Assessment of Weight-Length Relationships for Muskellunge, Northern Pike and Chain Pickerel in Carlander's Handbook of Freshwater Fishery Biology
Acoustic Demonstration of Galileo's Law of Falling Bodies
Measuring Deflagration Velocity in Oxy-acetylene with High Speed Video
EXPERIMENTAL ROCKETRY In the classroom, we are working to broaden the use of experimental rocketry across quantitative courses as well as to incorporate sensor technology in a broader array of laboratories for testing fundamental principles as well as applications such as assessing product claims. In addition, miniature rocketry has several potential military applications, including surveillance and delivery of relatively light payloads. Fiber-based composite materials and integral motor/body designs enable much lower mass ratios than previously possible.
BTG Research anticipates that challenges such as minimizing drag forces, maximizing specific impulse, dissipating heat, optimizing nozzle design, grain configuration, and propellant chemistry can be overcome in a short time to produce miniature rockets near 100 grams in mass and under $20 in large scale production costs that can reach altitudes of 1 mile for surveillance applications and several miles for delivery of light payloads.
Measuring Thrust and Predicting Trajectory in Model Rocketry
Testing Estes' Thrust Claims for the A10-PT motor
EXTRA INSTRUCTION VIDEOS Seeing the correct approach to solving quantitative problems modeled by an expert instructor, combined with independent working of problems, is the best way for a student to learn essential skills associated with physics and calculus. Answers in the back of a textbook are of limited use because they do not contribute to developing the student’s thought process. We are creating professional yet personable videos demonstrating not only the solution to typical problems but also a general approach that is useful for every problem. These videos can be accessed when instructors may not be accessible, helping students to better complete assignments or prepare for graded events. See example videos online:
Ex 1: Newton's 2nd in 1D Ex 2: Coefficient of Friction Ex 3: Approximating Integrals
GUIPEP graphical user interface to rocket propellant software Gnuplot graphing utility
PROPEP combustion simulation software for model rocketry Graph.exe graphing utility
Rocketry.org Audacity audio recorder and editor
James Yawn recrystallized rocketry site Avidemux video editor
Richard Nakka's experimental rocketry site
American Association of Physics Teachers