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Tales From The Wave Front: Teaching The Physics Of Cell Phones And Wireless Communications

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2008 Annual Conference & Exposition


Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

Publication Date

June 22, 2008

Start Date

June 22, 2008

End Date

June 25, 2008



Conference Session

Innovations in Teaching Physics or Engineering Phy

Tagged Division

Engineering Physics & Physics

Page Count


Page Numbers

13.1137.1 - 13.1137.10



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Paper Authors

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Robert Ross University of Detroit Mercy

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Jenna Ross Utica Center for Mathematics Science and Technology

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

Tales from the Wave Front: Teaching the Physics of Cell Phones and Wireless Communications


For over twenty years our college has offered a summer enrichment program for high school students. The UNinitiates Introduction to Engineering (UNITE) program affords high school students the opportunity to take courses in writing, mathematics, computer science, persuasive speaking, and physics. Our unique program targets incoming high school freshmen from a diverse urban population. For several years the physics course was based on a traditional introductory college mechanics laboratory curriculum. This curriculum was not inquiry-based and provided only limited opportunities for students to construct their own knowledge by performing open-ended activities.

Scholarly research into the teaching and, more importantly, the learning of physics has provided valuable guidance for the design of innovative curricula and pedagogy 1 . The pedagogical strategies that are able to demonstrate high rates of student achievement, as measured by standardized examinations, involve some form of what is commonly called interactive engagement. Hake defines, ‘‘Interactive Engagement’’ (IE) methods as those designed at least in part to promote conceptual understanding through interactive engagement of students in heads-on (always) and hands-on (usually) activities which yield immediate feedback through discussion with peers and/or instructors,…” 2 A variety of instructional methods such as collaborative learning, peer instruction, tutorials, and computer based instruction have been developed to promote conceptual understanding (a comprehensive review of the literature can be found in reference 1). In addition to the method of instruction, students bring their personal histories with them to class, and it has been shown that their expectations play a critical role in the outcome of a physics course 3 . The interactive engagement methods, which have demonstrated success, rely on a constructivist approach to learning. Learners “construct” their own knowledge as a result of experiences provided by the instructor and the curriculum.

For the past two years we have used the Physics of Cell Phones and Wireless Communications, an innovative, hands-on, inquiry-based curriculum 4 . Other innovative science and engineering programs have been developed using the constructivist approach to enrich the learning experiences of high school students 5 . The Physics of Cell Phones and Wireless Communications curriculum was developed by high school physics teachers to comply with state curriculum standards and guidelines in the natural sciences. The content was designed to be covered in a high school physics classroom over a four week period. We find that in addition to being well suited to our UNITE high school enrichment program, the curriculum offers an additional benefit; many of the activities are appropriate for demonstrations and laboratory exercises in an introductory university physics course. University students respond favorably to the introduction of state-of-the-art technology 6 . The curriculum is relatively inexpensive and traditional laboratories have much of the necessary additional support equipment. We will describe this curriculum from both the faculty and student points of view and discuss how we adapted this curriculum to fit the needs of our individual program. We will highlight some of the activities that are suitable for university level work.

Ross, R., & Ross, J. (2008, June), Tales From The Wave Front: Teaching The Physics Of Cell Phones And Wireless Communications Paper presented at 2008 Annual Conference & Exposition, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. 10.18260/1-2--3439

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