What do you want to achieve? We want students to have the best possible education in practicing physics (or even more broadly science). There are so many constraints in the way of what we think would be a most enjoyable and instructive lab! Sometimes it’s resources, sometimes time and experience of educators, sometimes the legacy of old-style practices. By presenting well developed examples, and offering a forum for a community of like-minded educators (and/or educators faced with similar aspirations and challenges) we hope to make innovation and improvement easier.
Who is this website for? This website is for anyone in charge of a practical science class. It could be from final years of high school, through early university, perhaps all the way into physics degrees. The material is presented and offered to educators - in some cases they will be able to deploy it “as is”, and perhaps more often it will help and save time in preparing something tailored to the specific context and needs. We very much welcome feedback on how the material is being used (please sign up and participate in the Slack workspace).
Are you duplicating other initiatives? We hope not! Those initiatives that we are aware of are linked from our website, and we think there is a need for a reference place for the community looking at innovation in physics and science labs.
What is the scope? In terms of year group/experience, we would not like to have any limits. Our material is likely to be of use from the final years of high school, through university, perhaps with some projects being extendable as final year projects or graduate student rotation projects. In terms of topic, we are starting the initiative with experimental physics, but if this is a success we could easily extend to other sciences and engineering, which could also benefit from a hands-on approach to practicals, empowering new generations to build their kit. In terms of technologies, a lot of our material uses smartphones, Arduino, Raspberry Pi and webcams, but we are not tied to a specific platform, language, etc. Indeed there are surely other approaches we do not know of, they are welcome. We do think obtaining data such that models can be formed and tested is crucial, and the scope of the project is to present and discuss hands-on practicals.
So is anything out of remit? Yes - say, proposing that a physicist should have the same knowledge as an electronics engineer, and build everything from scratch… that would enable cheap solutions, but is unrealistic. On the other end of the spectrum, expensive and/or “boxed” solutions can have impact in some settings, but are not what we think needs our attention here.
Using materials from SMARTPHYSICSLAB
Can I modify the material for educational purposes? Yes. The CC-BY license allows any use, (others can distribute, remix, tweak, and build upon the licensed work, including for commercial purposes, as long as the original author is credited). The original work (here) needs to be acknowledged, for example in the form Adapted/Derived/Including the work of A.Alice and B.Bob, SmartPhysicsLab E1 (2020).
I have already published some material, not sure how to engage? We don’t want you to waste time, and neither to duplicate here something that already exists elsewhere. It might be very interesting to write a few paragraphs in the “brainstorming blog” describing your activity.
Can I use the materials to make a commercial product? Yes - it’s not the aim of this website, but we welcome the use of ideas and materials to create other teaching resources (online, books, kits, instruments). The CC-BY license allows any use, (others can distribute, remix, tweak, and build upon the licensed work, including for commercial purposes, as long as the original author is credited). The original work (here) needs to be acknowledged, for example in the form Adapted/Derived/Including the work of A.Alice and B.Bob, SmartPhysicsLab E1 (2020).
Do you assume responsibility for damage to items or people resulting from following your suggested experiments? No. Experiments described and proposed here are generally intended to be fairly safe, mostly using low voltages, light weight equipment, etc. However any experimental activity needs to be run under the supervision of a person in charge, who understands the activity, performs a risk-assessment and takes responsibility.
Thinking of contributing
How can I contribute? There are currently four ways you can contribute, aside from spreading the word.
(1) if you are an instructor you can sign up and get a link to the Slack site, where there is a discussion channel open for each experiment and ideas blog entry on the website. If you have feedback, opinions and suggestions, please go there in the first instance.
(2) If your experiment is open, or not detailed to the point that someone else can just run with it, then it belongs to "ideas". If you have published something relevant somewhere, or have experience of a programme that worked (or failed) - these are likely to be really interesting in “brainstorming", as blogs entries. The “box” on the webpage contains an image and up to 200 words, and these can have links to a pdf hosted by SmartPhysicsLab, or external links. Experiments, ideas and brainstorming will all get a number so they can be cited from elsewhere. There will be a corresponding Slack channel for further discussion. Submit to firstname.lastname@example.org
(3) If you would like to propose an experiment or idea, then please use our latex template. This material is the backbone of SmartPhysicsLab! These will get a number to facilitate referencing from elsewhere, and there will be a corresponding Slack channel for further discussion. Submit to email@example.com
(4) If you would like to translate an experiment into another language, we will be very welcome to host the translation.
Can I update the contribution? Yes - we imagine that over time material can be kept up to date. Perhaps also as a result of the Slack channel feedback. Like arXiv, we will link the most current version, but keep previous published versions available.
Why should I contribute some material? The primary reason is if you share in the objectives of this initiative, and aim to improve the nurturing of future generations of experimentalists! If you are a seasoned instructor you probably have one or more experiments that you know are great, and we aim here to make it as simple as possible for you to share this experience.
Will my work be recognised? The experiments, ideas and brainstorming blog entries will all get a number so they can be cited from elsewhere, and they will carry your name. At launch, we will not be purchasing D.O.I. numbers for each document since we do not have the funds for that. Neither are we aiming to be indexed as a journal. Maybe in future. For the moment, we hope the initiative gets global visibility, achieves impact, and that whoever assesses your work will give you credit for your part in that.