Physics teachers in a spin

29 September 2014

Physics teachers from all over Ireland converged on Dublin City University on 27 September to explore both cutting-edge science and the best ways of bringing it back to the classroom.

Physics teachers in a spin

The annual Frontiers of Physics Teachers Conference was opened by Minister of State for Skills, Research and Innovation, Damien English. The event, which is jointly organized by the Institute of Physics in Ireland (IOPI) and the School of Physical Sciences at DCU is supported by the Professional Development Service for Teachers.

Minister English noted that: “On the 50th anniversary of the formation of the Institute of Physics Ireland, I would like to thank the Institute for its active role in supporting major outreach activities, like this event, which promote science education.

“Science contributes to a broad and balanced educational experience for students, and it is important that they are convinced of the impact that it has on our everyday lives and on our environment.

Physics teachers in a spin
Hugh Hunt demonstrating angular velocity

“The sense of wonder we have when we’re younger is promoted through science. Educational reforms are adopting a more inquiring line of teaching, which I hope will encourage students to keep asking questions and seeking answers. Indeed, I was happy to see an 11% increase in the number of students sitting Physics in this year’s Leaving Cert., as well as the continued upward trend in those sitting Higher Level Maths.”

The programme included talks from renowned international speakers, workshops and demos. In a highly entertaining talk keynote speaker, Dr Hugh Hunt of Cambridge University explored some of the more puzzling questions of spin such as why top-spin is so effective in tennis, why a falling cat always manages to land on its feet and how the Hubble Space Telescope can turn around in space. Canadian presenter, Johanne Patry looked at how teachers can construct inspiring lessons   using mythical hero--scientists like Merlin. Other areas explored included using money to illustrate physics principles and the use of light in the inquiry-based classroom.

Physics teachers in a spin
Johanne Patry at Frontiers

Staff from the School of Physical Sciences gave insights into some fascinating areas of research at DCU including nanotechnology, semiconductor devices in the information age, the latest methods of disease detection and a new super-strong form of carbon, graphene.

There were almost 20 exhibitors at the event giving teachers plenty of support with access to new materials and information on other upcoming events. The Institute of Physics in Ireland, which is celebrating its 50 anniversary this year, provided a range of teachers supports at the event including DVDs, posters, demos, careers information and more.