Taking cool, hands-on physics to Grade 12
The University of Alberta physics department went on the offensive in 2010, taking their message to Alberta students that physics is indeed the science of cool.
The department enlisted the help of three programs that puts the students of Alberta high schools and U of A feeder institutions in the researcher’s chair of actual cutting-edge physics experiments.
The Modern Physic Experiments program is currently found in more than 80 Grade 12 classes throughout northern Alberta. In the program, students partake in the workshop, with more than 2,000 Grade 12 students carrying out these modern physics experiments each year.
Members of the Department of Physics have also been instrumental in the Alberta Large Time-coincidence Array, or ALTA, Cosmic Ray Project, which involves 13 sets of cosmic ray detectors placed on widely spaced Northern Alberta high schools, which enable students to carry out experiments on cosmic-ray incidences.
Thanks to funding from the university’s Teaching and Learning Enhancement Fund, physics professor James Pinfold is also in the midst of executing an initiative, entitled FUTURA, which is a program designed to empower students through direct hands-on involvement in the world's biggest science projects.
Pinfold pointed to an America study that suggests science students are losing interest in the subject because of a lack of engagement with genuine research. To this end, Pinfold says senior teachers at U of A’s feeder colleges throughout Alberta have expressed an interest in FUTURA.
“Scores of students from these and other institutes are admitted to the U of A each year in the areas of science and engineering,” he said. “We expect that an involvement in this collaborative effort of students and teachers from post-secondary institutes that normally do not have a significant research element would significantly increase the number of students entering the U of A for graduate studies in science.”