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SPS Zone 17 Meeting Report
University of Portland, Portland, OR

By Scooter Johnson Associate Zone Councilor Zone 17


The SPS Zone 17 Meeting was held in conjunction with the Pacific Northwest Association for College Physics (PNACP) on Friday and Saturday April 15th & 16th 2005. There were fourteen people signed up for the SPS meeting from Lewis & Clark College, University of Portland, Green River Community College, Eastern Washington University and Portland Community College.

We saw numerous talks on how to give physics demonstrations, which were interesting for us since, as students we have seen many demonstrations good and bad. These talks showcased some of the best demonstrations. One of my favorite demo talks was given by Stanley Micklavzina, who showed constructive interference using white noise and speakers. He also lit up a fluorescent bulb by touching a plasma lamp. Another talk by Steve Shropshire showed how to make speakers out of a coil of wire and a magnet. He used this to make a cardboard box into a speaker and transmitted a radio station signal through a cassette tape head, which could be heard out the cassette player’s speaker.


A very engaging talk was given by Michael Janssen of the University of Minnesota on the life of Einstein. His talk delved into details about Einstein’s life and social circles and illuminated the type of person Einstein was and his personal experiences during his early scientific career. Wolfgang Rueckner of Harvard University also gave an interesting talk on guidelines for effective physics demonstrations. We also heard a talk by David Vernier on Vernier Software and its uses. He showed us a cool video where they had attached a force probe to a skateboarder and measured the force on him as he rode in a half-pipe.

On Saturday we served pizza in and discussed aspects of SPS both locally and nationally. Since University of Portland does not currently have a chapter we discussed the merits and obligations of having and maintaining an SPS chapter. After pizza Kasandra Jorgensen gave a research talk on a binary star system called 44i Bootes. We then circulated the room and the five poster presenters gave a brief description of their research. After discussing our posters we took a tour of a couple of the University of Portland physics labs. Dr. Shannon Mayer’s lab is doing work on laser trapping of rubidium atoms and it was very interesting to see the optics and configuration of the equipment.


We then initiated our paper airplane-flying contest. We had various sizes of construction paper and each person made an airplane using only the paper provided. The contest was divided into two categories; the plane to travel the furthest distance and the plane that would stay in flight the longest time. The winners of each of these two categories were awarded by launching the model rockets afterward. The winner of the furthest distance flight was Kyle McFarland from Green River Community College and the longest in flight was awarded to Scooter Johnson of Lewis & Clark College.

For the rocket launching we had two types of rockets – a vinegar and baking soda rocket and a compressed water rocket. Scooter launched the first water rocket, except we filled the rocket instead with Sprite. The rocket flew pretty high and then landed on the concrete and smashed the nose in. Further attempts to launch it did not go so well. The baking soda and vinegar rocket launch went well the first time, but a main seal failure made future attempts unsuccessful. After the rocket launching, we all said goodbye and exchanged email information.

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