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Physics and Astronomy
Project Proposal

Enhancing and Refining Educational Materials for Physics Instruction

Lauren Delgado ’19 and Cindy Schwarz (Physics)

Traditional classroom materials being used for introductory physics courses in college have often been insufficient in creating a smooth transition from the science classes taken in high school to college level standards. To be specific, many crucial math skills become lost along the way once freshmen arrive on campus with no mandatory review of those topics. Therefore, we have now have decided to form additional, improved supplementary options to assist incoming freshmen to see if any significant impact would occur in success and likely continuance in physics classes. Vassar, alongside nine other prestigious institutions have collaborated together to create math modules called MyOpenMath tutorials, which are tailored to review and reinforce forgotten problem solving skills that are essential for intro level science courses: calculus, chemistry, and physics. Each subject module tutorial was built to have a gateway opening problem to preface the topic and a potential problem they may have in their homework problem sets. All the gateway problems have been designed to have step by step instructions on how to solve. Following the gateway videos, a do it yourself (DIY) problem is included so the student can get practice with some guidance along the way (similar to office hours). These will be implemented at Vassar in the fall of 2017.

The second part of this project involved revising educational materials that are more geared for the non physics students and general public, in particular the topic of particle physics. Professor Schwarz’s book A Tour of the Subatomic Zoo: A Guide to Particle Physics was a major success that now IOP (Institute of Physics) will be publishing a third edition of the book with an updated, more recent inclusion of discoveries like: gravitational waves, the higgs boson, and models outside of the Standard Model. While crafting this third edition, extensive research of web images, animations, and videos were inserted in order to cater to those who benefit from visual learning methods. In addition to this, updated figures of drawings from the previous edition were placed inside each chapter with color and stronger design. The final PDF files of the book have been sent to the publisher and should be available within the next two months.