Sunday, May 30, 2010

Rocking Aerodynamics Text

I said I would be back soon. This text provided by the US Navy totally rocks.
Just got my wonderful wind tunnel in from Pitsco, the X-stream wind tunnel. It has a probe that measures how much drag force is experienced by objects in the tunnel. The wind speed measurement uses the fact that there is a Venturi tube shape in the tunnel itself. As a result, you can get the volumetric flow rate in the wind tunnel from the difference in pressure between the wide mouth and the narrow test area. It uses a manometer that is marked off in thousands of inches/minute. I am now gleefully gathering labs and lectures for the Aerodynamics course from MIT's lecture series. More later.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Making a Difference

Well, trying to make progress at my school on two fronts. We got a grant to buy some National Instrument LabView packages. The grant is providing funds for my training. It is exciting because this will bring us up to the 21 st century in techniques used in top of the line engineering programs, industry and even the military. This package can be used to program and take data, so my students will be in hog heaven.
In addition to this the wind tunnel comes on Monday. This can be used in Mechanical engineering, AP Physics, Honors Physics and Aerodynamics. Students have been asking for this course for a long time, so it should be well received also. This will supply me with what the Japanese call "The reason to get up in the morning" for at least five more years.

Saturday, May 1, 2010

From tradgedy, a learning opportunity.

The Gulf Coast beaches are my favorite places in the Universe, especially in the off season when the beaches are mostly deserted and in November migrating butterflies fill the air. The seafood is great, and is a big part of the economy. When working with the Army Corp of Engineers, I got to see The Apalachicola river basin. It is a unique environment that owes it's purity to limestone aquifers and several fresh water clams that exist no where else to filter impurities from the water. This results in great oyster beds and shrimp hatcheries that provide 2/3 of American sea food.

Well all of that is pretty much toast. I find it odd that it occurred to me and other science teachers that we should be collecting water samples as the crap from the ongoing spill to teach students. Even disasters have something to show us.

Friday, April 30, 2010

The Grind

The Japanese call it the reason to get up in the morning. It can't be about just getting a pay check, or life becomes increasingly grinding and ugly. I like teaching my students about how cool the universe is. I am starting a new course on compressible aerodynamics based on the NASA web pages. I am using a wind tunnel from Pitsco along with their data acquisition software.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

A great day teaching.

Taught my students about the velocity selector in AP Physics, where the electric force is balance out by the magnetic force. It is a thing of beauty. Get two parallel metal plate and put a big battery across it, you have instant E-field. Put a magnetic field perpendicular to it. If charged particle goes to fast, magnetic field curves it's path. If it is too slow, electric field curves it the opposite direction. If the speed is just right, v=E/B, it goes through undeflected.
We then talked about the path of the particle once it left this region and went into a magnetic field. It has a constant velocity. As a result, R=mv/qB (R=radius, m=mass, q=charge, B = magnetic field), the only variable being the mass. Different masses mean different radii. You could use this device to find out what isotope by percent were in a sample. Or it could be used to separate U235 from U238.
The Goodyear plant in Chilocothe, OH used this method to enrich uranium. It seems that everyone want's to use centrafuges today.
In robotics I got my students to program their robots to make a perfect square, until they ran into an obstacle. The used infrared leds to modulate a signal. If the modulated reflected signal were picked up, an obstacle was detected. The program would go into an avoidance subroutine, after which it would go back to making a square.

Free Textbooks

Teaching may be a lauded goal for society, but like infrastructure, our society doesn't give many of it's resoureces to it. As a result texts are hard to come by. Especially iratating is the text book racket that follows the texas school board mafia. The government has textbooks it hand out for free. I love them because it assumes the readers know nothing and "floats all boats" as it were. One of my new favorites is the Department of Energy offerings.
They offer physics, electrical science, thermodynamics, mathematics, chemistry, material science, mechanics, the list is endless. I am using the nuclear reactor technology text for my nuclear engineering course.
Another interesting free text source is the Navy online technical manual directory at

Life is good an the good things in life are free. Not only that, they are usually on pdf files.