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Synthesizing Liberal Arts Physics

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2004 Annual Conference


Salt Lake City, Utah

Publication Date

June 20, 2004

Start Date

June 20, 2004

End Date

June 23, 2004



Conference Session

Technological Literacy II

Page Count


Page Numbers

9.1145.1 - 9.1145.17



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Paper Authors

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Kurt DeGoede

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NOTE: The first page of text has been automatically extracted and included below in lieu of an abstract

Session: 1761

Synthesizing Liberal Arts Physics

Kurt M. DeGoede Elizabethtown College, Elizabethtown, PA


This paper presents several exercises for use in courses for non-science students who are fulfilling a general education science requirement. Each exercise requires students to use fundamental concepts to design something new. In this manner, the exercises force the students to move from the lower levels of Bloom’s Taxonomy to the synthesis and judgment levels1. Although these activities were used in a course for non-science students some may be useful in engineering courses as well.

Course Description, Physics 105, How Things Work, Elizabethtown College, Pennsylvania: This course will introduce students to concepts in physics as relates to commonly used technology and processes experienced in daily life. As students become familiar and comfortable with science and technology, they will understand the predictable nature of the universe and dispel the “magic” of science and technology. Possible topics include: Motion (skating), Mechanics (amusement parks), Electronics (computer), Electromagnetic Waves (radio), Fluids (siphon, vacuum cleaner), Heat (furnace, air conditioning), Resonance (clocks, musical instruments), Electric Forces (air cleaners, copiers, maglev trains), Electrodynamics (flashlight, tape recorder), Light (lasers, paint), or Optics (cameras, telescopes, microscopes). The course will include a two-hour laboratory component each week.

The text How Things Work by Louis Bloomfield covers each of these topics and numerous others and was selected for the course2. The text was well received by the students: they enjoyed reading it and found most of the explanations easy to follow. The text contains numerous exercises for developing the lower three levels of Blooms Taxonomy: knowledge, comprehension, and application. Many of the exercises and case studies require the students to apply material in both presented and new situations. For example, lift is explained in the fluid mechanics chapter through discussion of spinning balls, Frisbees and airplane wings, and the exercises include questions such as:

“Why does an airplane have a “flight ceiling,” a maximum altitude above which it can’t obtain enough lift to balance the downward force of gravity?”

Proceedings of the 2004 American Society for Engineering Education Annual Conference and Exposition Copyright © 2004, American Society for Engineering Education

DeGoede, K. (2004, June), Synthesizing Liberal Arts Physics Paper presented at 2004 Annual Conference, Salt Lake City, Utah. 10.18260/1-2--13067

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