Outreach & Education

The students who took my PHY 110C seminar in Spring 2021 have created a web repository of information that they think will be helpful to undergraduate students. 

This was a student-initiated, student-led project.  Here it is:  https://physicsrepository.wordpress.com/

We’ve developed and beta-tested two lesson plans that combines our research with important concepts that are part of the Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills (TEKS) standards for high school.  The first lesson plan covers concepts from from biology, physics, and algebra.  The second lesson plan covers concepts from physics, trigonometry, algebra, and statistics.

Each lesson plan consists of three or four modules that can be taught together or separately.

The first lesson plan uses role-play and experiential learning to teach the physical origins of diffusion and explore the algebraic mathematics of diffusion, and the importance of biofilms and natural selection for disease, pathogenesis, and antibiotic resistance and evasion of the immune system’s attempts to clear infections.  Ideas of antibiotic resistance and susceptibility are related to real-world medical microbiology and bio-proprospecting.

The second lesson plan has students work in small groups to use inexpensive, easily-available materials to build a simplified re-creation of an Atomic Force Microscope.  This lesson plan teaches the physical ideas of springs and mirror reflection.  Algebra, trigonometry, and statistics and  data analysis are taught as the students calibrate their “AFM” and use it to measure forces.

We developed the different components of these modules over several years of outreach presentations to middle school and high school students visiting the UT Austin campus.  In summer 2019, we taught a first draft of this lesson plan to high school students who were participating in the Physics Department’s Alice in Wonderland outreach program.  Based on that experience, we modified the lesson and taught it again in summer 2019 and in summer 2022, this time to middle-school students participating in the UTeach STEM Prep camp.  We refined the lesson again after teaching it to middle-school students.  Our experiences from teaching both high school and middle school students are reflected in the final lesson plan and materials below.

You can download the lesson plans and associated materials at the links below.  These are free to use and to share – all we ask is that you credit us, and that you email Professor Vernita Gordon (gordon@chaos.utexas.edu) to tell her if you use them and how it went.

Cover Page

Biofilms & Diffusion Constant Lesson Plan

Part 1 slides and handouts

Part 2 slides and handout

Part 3 slides and handouts

Atomic Force Microscope lesson plan – teacher guide    5E LP1-4 AFM Teacher Guide_FINAL

Atomic Force Microscope lesson plan – handouts  5E LP1-4 AFM Teacher Guide_HANDOUTS_FINAL

Part 1 – Springs and Cantilevers  5E LP1_ Understanding How Forces Impact Cantilevers _ Springs

Part 2 – Hooke’s Law  5E LP2_ Calculating Hooke_s Law

Part 3 – Mirror Reflection    5E LP3_ Incident Light

Part 4 – Statistical analysis    5E LP4_ Statistical Analysis