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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″]


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.



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

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.

Physics Level

12 Dec

One of my students brought the following picture for me today:

Although he did not assemble the featured contraption, I am still proudly displaying it on my science corner board because it’s nice to know they think about physics when they lurk and troll on the internet. I love teaching and especially love teaching physics =)

physics level

Mi Casa

11 Dec

So I am teaching vector addition in preparation for finding vector components when solving projectile motion problems to my physics students. I am especially nervous about this topic because I teach freshman, which for the most part are concurrently taking algebra at the moment. That means they have never taken trig or heard of sine, cosine or tangent of an angle. Actually – they have never heard the term theta. Hence why I woke up from a nightmare not too long ago where I was teaching finding vector components and had bombed the whole lesson.

Needless to say I have started out very basic to make sure my kids follow with all the vector math. For HW the first night I had them draw a scaled diagram that showed the displacement from my house (Ms. Chabebe’s house) to Hillcrest High School given a certain magnitude and direction.

I found some of my student’s work quite entertaining.

Trailer Park

Fishing for brownie points


Massive upgrade from the trailer – suburban home, front yard with giant driveway, two car garage with a sweet car, and even a dog frolicking in the yard!

Lesson Learned: I need to start assigning more HW that will be entertaining to grade

The Gorilla Experiment

10 Dec

As I mentioned in a previous post, I started watching the Big Bang Theory and reward myself after a day of teaching and planning with an episode here and there.  I still don’t know how I didn’t get into this show sooner. The latest episode I watched pretty much summed up my feelings/frustrations as a physics teacher in a humorous way.

It’s a bit long at 9 minutes but worth the watch since I took the time to post it in a way that would not be blocked. The best part starts at the 2 minute mark.

[jwplayer mediaid=”2104″]

This interaction typically happens at least once a day. I have replaced Sheldon and Penny’s part with myself and a student.

Me: Where’s your notebook?
Student: Uuum, I don’t have one
Me: How are you going to take notes without a notebook?
Student: I have to take notes?
Me: How else are you going to study for the test?
Student: There’s going to be a test?
Me: Testsssssss



Egg Drop!

28 Nov

Today in my 1st period class we did the classic egg drop project. We talked about free fall last week so I figured it would a good time to tie this in. Not to mention that I needed a project for them to work on for Thanksgiving break and thought this would be a fun to do that. It was a lot of fun and interesting to see the different ideas my students  came up with.

The way the drops worked was the following:

Each team gets 3 drops. First from 15 feet above ground. If the egg survives you move to the next round which is a drop from the balcony. If the egg survives you can go to the bonus round which involves me launching the container with the egg as hard and violently as I possibly can. Following are a few pictures of some of the final designs. The last picture was one of my favorites though incredibly messy when inspecting the egg for cracks.

Ballon Covered Box with Cotton Balls Inside – Survived mighty throw from auditorium balcony

Egg suspended by rubber bands inside a box – Did not survive 15 foot drop

Double cone shaped exterior with inflated latex gloves and an orange peel on the inside – Survived mighty throw from auditorium balcony

Sponge bed inside plastic tupperware Survived 15 foot drop but not balcony drop


Sponge bed inside metal case – Did not survive 15 foot drop

Cotton balls and padding inside swiffer box – Survived mighty throw from auditorium balcony

Sponge bed inside plastic case – Survived mighty throw from auditorium balcony

Shoe box with scarves – Survived mighty throw from auditorium balcony

Non Newtonian fluid (cornstarch and water) inside cup inside shoe box Survived mighty throw from auditorium balcony

Physics and Fencing!

27 Nov

In between planning sessions I have been slipping episodes of the big bang theory. I don’t know why I never got into this show before but I find it quite entertaining. And then today, something amazing happened.

[jwplayer mediaid=”2063″]

Two of my biggest loves mixed into one sentence!  Such a nerdy sentence haha