Louisiana Tech hosts hands-on physics minicamp

Mar 2, 2022 | Education and Human Sciences, Engineering and Science, General News, Students

Louisiana Tech University’s Science and Technology Education Center (SciTEC) and Physics program teamed up to host “Awesome Physics with Phones (APP),” a series of interactive, hands-on physics activities focused on learning about electromagnets and the physics of flight.

Students learn how to use their cell phones to measure electromagnetic waves. The program was offered as a part of Louisiana Gaining Awareness and Readiness for Undergraduate Programs (Louisiana GEAR UP) in the Louisiana Office of Student and Financial Assistance, a division of the Louisiana Board of Regents.

Jacob Boyt, a doctoral student in the Computational Analysis and Modeling program and a graduate of the UTeachTech program, and Shante Quigley, who is concurrently pursuing a PhD in Engineering Physics and a Master of Education degree, helped the students understand electromagnets as they used sensors in their phones. Boyt and Quigley are both graduates of the Physics program. Elizabeth McDowell, a senior in the Professional Aviation and Physics programs, explained the physics of flight and directed students in activities using model airplanes.

Juniors and seniors from Lincoln Prep participated in the event.

“Students were actively engaged in the hands-on learning process and having fun while learning about electromagnets and the science behind airplanes and flying,” said Diane Madden, Associate Director of SciTEC. “This was a great group of students and we look forward to working with them on other projects.”

Lincoln Prep senior Anseli Kelly said she was impressed by the hands-on activities.

Lincoln Prep students celebrate a successful experiment.“This is a great learning experience,” Kelly said. “It is so much better than sitting in class learning about this. In the past, physics seemed hard and boring, but connecting it with hands-on activities made it fun.”

“This is so different from our regular school day,” junior Paris Bilberry said. “I really enjoyed this event.”

Edward Ford, former Louisiana GEAR UP Explorer’s Club state officer, enjoyed the presentation on the Four Forces of Flight – lift, weight, thrust, and drag. After assembling his wooden airplane, Ford launched the airplane from the top stairs of the IESB atrium.

“If you know the physics behind an airplane, you understand how it stays in the air,” Ford said.

“Allowing students from the colleges of Education and Engineering and Science to educate and inspire future Bulldogs in physics is inspiring and heartwarming,” said Dr. Lindsey Keith-Vincent, College of Education Associate Dean. “Partnering with exceptional young people from Lincoln Preparatory School to share lab space while their learning environment is being renovated has allowed for unique and impactful partnerships and learning opportunities. We look forward to more learning opportunities in the coming weeks with our colleagues in the College of Applied and Natural Sciences.”

The content designers created activities that are designed to be fun and engaging while introducing students to physics concepts like electromagnetism and forces involved in aerodynamics, according to Dr. Buddhini Waidyawansa, Adjunct Instructor of Physics.

“These activities are simple and can be done at home using easy-to-find materials,” Waidyawansa said. “Then they get to use their phones and make real-time measurements to understand the underlying theory. For example, they learned how to build a simple electromagnet and measure the magnetic field at the center of the wire loop using the built in magnetometer of their phones. Electromagnet are being used in everyday life in applications like doorbells and transformers. The also learned about the physics of airplanes and got to practice in model airplanes. It is always good to learn what you study has every day applications and is not only limited to theory books.”

Assistance for the program was provided by Dr. Rakitha Beminiwattha, Assistant Professor of Physics; Dr. Andrew Stroud, Adjunct Professor of Physics; and Dr. Markus Wobisch, Associate Professor of Physics.

Content used for the minicamp is available through Louisiana Tech’s partnership with Coursera. To learn more about educational outreach opportunities at Louisiana Tech University, email