Cool Star Lab Presents Work at 2016 Physics Education Research Conference

Mike Lopez, Isabela Rodrigues and Adam Burgasser presented their early analysis of an experimental Physics course at the 2016 Physics Education Research Conference in Sacramento, CA. This was the first PERC for all three researchers. In addition, former Cool Star Lab member Dianna Cowern was on hand for the overlapping American Association of Physics Teachers (AAPT) meeting presenting her work on the Physics Girl video series.

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Past and present Cool Star Lab members at the 2016 PERC; from left to right: Isabela Rodrigues, Dianna Cowern, Adam Burgasser and Mike Lopez.

The primary research presentations focused on analysis of an experiment conducted in Fall 2015 to implement Cooperative Problem Solving (CPS) in the large Physics 1A Introductory Mechanics course. The current course format, which is lecture-based, does not specifically build up students’ problem solving skills, skills that students often struggle with and which may benefit them more in their other majors and in their future careers. Inspired by work being done by Thomas Gredig at CSU Long Beach, I implemented a form of CPS as described in Heller & Heller (2010) as a flipped-format course, with online video lectures providing the primary instruction and class time primarily devoted to problem-solving skills and techniques.  To validate the model, Adam taught 9 sections of the CPS course with 1 (large) section of interactive lecture. The work presented at the PERC was a preliminary analysis of student outcomes.

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Dianna Cowern wins National Science Communication Award


Cool Star Lab Outreach Coordinator Dianna Cowern took the top video prize at this year’s Flame Challenge, a national science communication contest run by the Alan Alda Center for Communicating Science headquartered at SUNY Stony Brook. Dianna was among hundreds of scientists who tackled the question “What is Color?”, using either video or written formats. Her video was judged as the best entry by over 27,000 11-year olds from around the world.  This is the third year of the Challenge; previous contests asked “What is a Flame?” and “What is Time?“.

Both Dianna and the winner of the written category Melanie Golob, received their awards from Alan Alda during an event at World Science Festival.  This event, hosted by Brian Greene, can be viewed here; the awards are announced toward the end.

Several news agencies reported Dianna’s win, including NBC News and io9, and UCSD profiled Dianna in This Week. You can see more of Dianna’s videos at her Physics Girl YouTube channel.

Congratulations Dianna!