In a lab in the Science and Mathematics Center, graduate student [b]Stephanie Hallett[/b] readied a table-top device that uses lasers to measure the speed of light. Several mirrors were aligned perfectly, the lights dimmed, and the measurements appear via wavelength on a small screen. When the lights came back on, she expressed her excitement.
"Being able to use this equipment is not an opportunity you usually get as a science teacher," said the Mansfield resident, who is enrolled in the Master's of Teaching program at BSU and teaches at Marlborough High School. "This is real physics."
Ms. Hallett is part of a group of graduate students who teach high school science and spending part of the summer taking a course at BSU dedicated to experimentation and practical application of physics. And the students are already finding the material helpful for the upcoming school year.
"The best thing is I can walk into my classroom and show my students real data," said [b]Brian Finn[/b], another of the students who teaches at Wellesley High School. "I can show them what I collected and how I collected it."
Heading up the "Modern Physics Experiments" course is [b]Dr. Ed Deveney[/b], professor of physics and MAT coordinator, who said the class is a fine complement to the theoretical coursework primarily offered throughout the graduate program. "It's the perfect mix," he said.
Such hands-on courses have been available at BSU for several years, with one offered each semester. However, with the recent construction of the university's $98.7 million science center, Dr. Deveney was able to improve his equipment and expand from one to three labs -- lasers, X-rays, and robotics/electronics included.
The expansion has widened the scope of the courses, which help teachers in need of classroom ideas and professional development. "Teachers need this type of education," said Dr. Deveney. "BSU has become a place where they can rely on for these courses."
In the X-ray room, students work with machines commonly used in hospitals, including a smaller version of an MRI (an acronym for Magnetic Resonance Imaging). [b]Bailey Karr[/b] of Dover, who teaches at Medfield High School, found working with that device informative.
"It's really great to see how everything is put together on a smaller scale," she said. "It helps me see how it works better, so I can better explain it to my students."
The laser lab worked in the same way for Ms. Karr. "When you talk to your students about the speed of light, it seems so unfeasible," she said. "Now, with the data, I can show them how fast it really is."
The course is helping student [b]Karen Eknaian[/b], who teaches chemistry at Foxboro High School. The material is all new to her, but she said the process of collecting and analyzing data, and interpreting results, is the backbone of science education. "This is something that's really essential for new chemistry teachers," said the Westerly, R.I., resident. "These are skills we can bring back to the classroom." (Rob Matheson, '07, G '12, University Advancement)