APS News

“BFY” Conference Focuses on Advanced Laboratory Instruction

BFY Conference participants

Photo by Elizabeth George

Tom Solomon of Bucknell University demonstrates the simple apparatus needed to create a "blinking vortex flow" used in undergraduate chaotic motion and mixing experiments.

Approximately 150 physics laboratory instructors gathered on the campuses of the University of Pennsylvania and Drexel University in Philadelphia in late July, to learn from one another how to set up environments that promote learning and skill development in the laboratory, and to share new experiments in hands-on workshops. 

They were attending the Conference on Laboratory Instruction Beyond the First Year of College (or “BFY”), organized by the Advanced Laboratory Physics Association (ALPhA) as a follow-up to the 2009 Topical Conference on Advanced Laboratories that was held at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor. One of the BFY participants, Ben Stottrup of Augsburg College, noted that “It was great to meet a community of educators who have a passion about experimental physics. I will use ideas I learned in the workshops in my courses this fall.” 

“The BFY Conference really illustrated the breadth of hands-on experiments that are being developed for undergraduate physics students. A number of the workshops demonstrated experiments that are well-suited to be offered as in-depth immersion experiences so that faculty and instructional staff can teach the experiments confidently to their own students,” said Lowell McCann of the University of Wisconsin-River Falls. McCann has organized ALPhA’s Laboratory Immersions program, which runs workshops several times a year that provide participants with two to three days of intensive hands-on experience with a single advanced laboratory experiment.

“This conference is an ‛act of community’ and the most efficient way for laboratory instructors to spend the time they devote to revitalizing their courses,” said Conference Chair Gabe Spalding, of Illinois Wesleyan University. The conference was supported by the National Science Foundation, the American Association of Physics Teachers, and the APS Forum on Education. Many equipment vendors also lent their support.
More information about ALPhA can be found at www.advlab.org.

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Editor: Alan Chodos