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Fun with Electrostatics!

10 Mar

A couple of weeks ago I started the unit on electricity and magnetism in my physics classes. I was really nervous about teaching this unit more than all the others because, although we are all familiar with electricity, the phenomenons behind what makes electricity possible are invisible to the naked eye. In a way, electricity just seems like magic.

Part of the unit involves talking about electroscopes. An electroscope is a device that detects any kind of charge. When I say charge, I am referring to an object that has gained or lost electrons, because in order to become charged (positive or negative) electrons must be moved. The most common example that we are used to when it comes to gaining some electrons, is sliding our sock covered feet on a carpeted floor. The shock we feel after touching a metal door knob is electrons jumping from our bodies to the door knob and eventually to ground.

Here is a picture of a typical electroscope:


It is made of two metal leaves attached to a metal ball. These leaves are isolated from air currents, so that any movement is the result of electric charges and not random air fluctuations. If you touch an electroscope with a negatively-charged object, the electrons will flow down into the leaves, where they will accumulate on the leaf edges. This behavior is due to their repulsive nature, and the accumulation on the edges actually is how they are able to experience the least amount of repulsive force. The repulsive force experienced by the leaves will cause them to move apart. When the electroscope is grounded, the leaves will fall together again.

In class I used a balloon and my hair to move some electrons from my hair to the balloon. When I brought the balloon close to the top of the electroscope, the leaves at the bottom repelled. BAM…PHYSICS!

Since my students have been begging me for extra credit since the second day of school, I though this would be a great opportunity to stock up on supplies for my lab. You want extra credit in my class? You build something! So, I had m students make electroscopes for a HW pass or 5 points on any exam grade. I had about 15 students make electroscopes, and they all worked!


The collection of electroscopes on display under my smartboard in the front of the class






I am so incredibly proud of my students who made some awesome electrscopes. It’s obvious the all used the same two youtube videos but they did it!!! I will be using these for labs I do in future years of teaching physics! Saved myself and my school a ton of money on lab supplies while simultaneously enriching my students learning experience outside my classroom =)

I will update this post tomorrow with a video of the electroscope working!

[jwplayer mediaid=”2327″]



25 Feb

I have been listening to strictly 60’s oldies lately. I can’t seem to get over the song The Wanderer by Dion. I just love the lyrics because I’ve often felt like a wanderer not having lived in any single place for more than 5 years. I think I love this part of the song the most which I have modified to fit me signing it 🙂

I’m the type of gal that likes to roam around
I’m never in one place, I roam from town to town
And when I find myself fallin’ for some guy
I hop right into that car of mine and ride around the world
Cause I’m the wanderer
Yeah, the wanderer
I roam around, around, around–Qp5fE

[audio:|titles= The Wanderer|artists= Dion]

Student Work

19 Feb

I recently started teaching a college level AutoCAD class at my school as part of a College Now program. One of the first in class assignments I had students work on was to come up with a procedure they believed was necessary to make an iPhone beginning with concept to having the iPhone in my hand. I got some interesting work but there was definitely one that stood out.

iphone 5 process

I have  a feeling I am going to love teaching this class.


Dirty Dubstep Motivation

11 Feb

I need a serious dose of motivation to get through this week after working almost all weekend. Prepping for 3 different classes and taking two grad classes is no joke. I’m not sure how long I can keep this up but we’ll see.

I don’t think I could have gotten through the weekend of planning without this dirty mix playing in the background while I graded papers and planned like crazy! Skip over the first 45 seconds of talking and enjoy the ridiculous ripping beats and bass dropsss. Womp woommppp wommppp woooommmpppp!!

Pop pop baang…..

[soundcloud url=”″ params=”” width=” 100%” height=”166″ iframe=”true” /]

Oh, and lets not forget the Zed’s Dead snowstorm mix that got me through the “blizzard”

[soundcloud url=”″ params=”” width=” 100%” height=”166″ iframe=”true” /]


Speaking of grading and blizzards, here are two pictures. The first one is of the so called blizzard Nemo. Which seemed more like a dusting than a blizzard here in NYC.



And as usual, my cats were helping me do some work this weekend. Though I am not sure how much of a help Boosie was. Take a look for yourself….

cat grading



2 Feb

I recently went to the NYC transit museum and it was AWESOME. I absolutely LOVED it and will be going back very soon and quite often.

The adventure started with an awesome treat. I asked the guy selling the entrance tickets if there was a student discount to which he answered “no.” I then jokingly asked if there was a teacher discount, to which he chuckled and also answered “no.” As I went to pay for my ticket he said “Just go ahead, you made me laugh so it’s on me.” I couldn’t believe it! My awful sense of humor actually worked!!! Though I must say, at $7  a ticket, it’s a steal for what an amazing place it is.

All the old pictures of the beginnings of the construction of the tunnels were incredible. It was a bit spooky to see the black and white pictures of the construction workers in dark, dirty tunnels that are now the subway stations I ride through every day. After walking through the construction section of the exhibit, I ended up at the electricity section where I proceeded to spend about an hour getting ideas of how to teach electricity and magnetism to my class.

Electricity, the invisible force that moves over eight million New Yorkers a day - including me!

Electricity, the invisible force that moves over eight million New Yorkers a day – including me!

Got a brief demo of a homopolar motor demonstrating the Lorentz force. The way a a basic motor works is if you have an electric current flowing through a wire that happens to be in a magnetic field, it feels a force push on it. For a homopolar motor, if you have a straight piece of wire sitting in a magnetic field, the wire will feel a force pushing on it at right angles to both the wire and the magnetic field. The force the induces a torque around the axis of rotation which is seen when the magnets and nail rotate. I plan on making one of these when I teach magnetic fields to my class. SCIENCE!

Also got to take a sweet picture inside a NYC bus. Had to wait until all the little kids were done playing around until I got my turn, but it was well worth the wait. You can just see the excitement in my face!


NYC BUS DRIVER!!!! Watch out!!

Amy and Kristen in one of the first style subway cars

Amy and Kristen in one of the first style subway cars


Old subway map. Found my daily routes!

Old subway map. Found my daily routes!

Play on words. Etti-cat. My favorite subway ad on an old train

Play on words. Etti-cat. My favorite subway ad on an old train

This ad reminds me of the "if you see something, say smething" ads of today

This ad reminds me of the “if you see something, say smething” ads of today



Group Shot on in an old subway car

Group shot on in an old subway car. You can see how excited I was from the big cheesy smile on my face

DIY Bookcase

27 Jan

Instead of planning my next week of lessons this weekend, I decided to build a book case for my bedroom.  I’ve been needing a place to organize all of my physics and earth science textbooks that I use for teaching, so this was the perfect opportunity!

Step 1 - Gather Materials

Step 1 – Gather Materials


Step 2 - Attach shelf railings to side panels

Step 2 – Attach shelf railings to side panels


Step 3 - Attach top to sides correctly

Step 3 – Attach top to sides correctly


Step 4, 5, 6 - Attach bottom to side panels, screw in wheels, insert shelves

Step 4, 5, 6 – Attach bottom to side panels, screw in wheels, insert shelves,


Step 7 - Sand down edges to avoid splinters

Step 7 – Sand down edges to avoid splinters

More sanding with the help of Boosie

More sanding with the help of Boosie

The backing is still missing because the guy at home depot cut the piece of ply wood to big so I have to get it re-cut. Also planning on painting it the girliest colors possible, maybe even stencil some flowers on this bad boy. I think the floral design mixed physics textbooks will be a good balance.

I think my next project is going to be fixing up the awful filing cabinets that I have at school that are all rusted. Found an awesome idea online of how to fix up similar cabinets and making them extra girly. Check it out:



This would require a bit more work so we’ll see when I can actually get it done. First I have to finish my book case.

Fencer for Life

20 Jan

Though I don’t fence these days, I always look forward to the alumni fencing match at Stevens Institute of Technology. My best memories of when I was in college are related to fencing.

I look back now and am so happy I joined the team. Not only did I fall in love with the sport and work incredibly hard to improve, but I had the opportunity to travel all over the east coast for different matches and meet some of the most awesome people. One of my goals right now is to try and start up a fencing club/team at the high school I teach at because I think it would be a wonderful opportunity for kids to get involved in.

So today at the alumni match I fenced two of the foil fencers currently on the team. One of them just one the Stevens Invitational so I was afraid of getting whooped. Although I haven’t picked up a sword since this time last year, I managed to win both of my bouts. The first one went into overtime after we were both tied 3-3. The second one I was up 2-1 when time ran out.

Here is a video with my friend Emily as a narrator in the background. Be warned, I used to scream when I got a touch or got frustrated on the strip so you might hear some shouting. I am the one on the left.

[jwplayer mediaid=”2224″]

Emily the Epee fencer and Me

Emily the Epee fencer and Me



fencing 2

I’m on the left up 2-0


fencing 3

Chuck Norris of Physics

16 Jan

Yesterday, after a frustrating day at school, I was venting with a fellow science teacher. My main frustrations come from the fact that I feel that many of my students do not realize the importance of their education and the time we spend together. I mean, I remember being a teenager and just wanting to have fun and socialize, but I always made sure it wasn’t at the expense of my grades.

In any case, I said something to my fellow teacher about feeling inadequate to teach physics after a day like that and she turned my quote into a meme. My exact quote was this:

Chuck Norris of physics


But seriously…I feel like most times if I work hard enough and set my mind towards it, I can do anything!! Right now, I feel the harder I try, the harder I fail. I need to figure out how teenagers get motivated to want to learn…I’m open to suggestions because my tough love and sarcasm are not working haha.

Favorite Teacher

14 Jan

Last week I administered the first part of the State Exam to my one and only Earth Science class. This part is called the practical component where students are required to complete three tasks in an allotted time of nine minutes each. The three tasks are as follows:

1) Draw the elliptical orbit of an asteroid that orbits the sun given the foci locations
2) Identify two types of rocks and one mineral
3) Find the epicenter of an earthquake given the distances of two cities and the arrival  time between P-wave and S-waves at a third city.

I spent the week drilling these three things in class before the practical. My students seemed somewhat confident after the fact and I am hoping they all did well. Upon collecting their exam answer booklets I saw the following:

Favorite Teacher

 Needless to say I teared up and my heart filled with warmth. It’s things like this that make all the late nights, early mornings, long commute, stressful days, work filled weekends totally worth it.

Honorary Member

13 Jan

Being a high school teacher, I have an opportunity to participate in school events and clubs. After chaperoning the senior trip, I somehow became an honorary member of the Student Honor Society.

I was so excited when a few of the Honor’s students came into my classroom and delivered this to me on Friday.

Arista Honorary Member

Property of Hillcrest High School 2013!!!