Reed Magazine February
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2003

Hal Haggard ’02, physics

How much fun is one calculus-based introductory physics course supposed to be? Opinions may vary, but Hal Haggard can vouch for the entertainment value that video imaging has brought to the introductory physics lab. Since the Reed physics department received a $500,000 grant from the Keck Foundation for new equipment (to be matched by the college for related building renovations), the faculty and staff have been busy making innovative changes. While renovations and research began last summer and will continue through this summer, Haggard, a 2002 graduate and current department associate, has been working with professor John Essick to completely redevelop the lab curriculum for introductory physics coursework.
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The most exciting technological aspect of this transformation is the addition of video imaging techniques to many of the labs. Each group of students is provided with a hand-held video camera that they use to take digital video of various physical “events.” Then they are able to import the video into a computer and use software to analyze the data. Haggard emphasizes both the fun and the conceptual benefits of this exercise, explaining that “the software allows you to display your mathematical model right alongside the data, allowing for a concrete linking of the physics and the real world, and you can replay the film and examine aspects of the event in greater detail.”

He found that the one drawback of video is that the rate at which you take data is fixed—our eyes and the video camera only take a picture every thirtieth of a second. In an effort to improve upon these odds, Haggard looked into getting a high-speed camera. The new camera, capable of taking 8,000 pictures a second, will be an exciting tool for the students in the intro labs as well as in upper-division courses. At that rate you can watch the tear as a balloon pops or see a tennis ball squished in half before it leaves a racket—technology that would have been very helpful to Eadweard Muybridge in that wager about a horse back in 1872.

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Reed Magazine February
Go to Page 1 go to page two Page 3, you are here go to page 4 go to page 5 go to page 6 Link to Reed Mag  Home
2003