CWRU PHYSICS + IC, 2018
MORE THAN A 3-D CHALKBOARD
As a Professor of Physics, Mike Martens had struggled for years to teach students the difficult topic of electromagnetism.
It’s a topic that is inherently 3-D, with both electric and magnetic fields passing through space in complex patterns that are perfectly described by mathematical equations. However, they tend to be challenging for students to understand because they’re difficult to represent in a 2-D illustration in a book or on a chalkboard. Students can’t see the solutions; they can only imagine them through math. This all changed when Mike experienced mixed reality for the first time.
He knew exactly how this new technology could be used to change the way that electromagnetics, and actually all of physics, could be taught. Working with several undergraduate students and the staff at the IC, Mike put together multiple labs with groups of 35 students at a time. Each lab represented the kinds of 3-D problems that students had previously struggled with, like how electric fields curl around a conductive object, as shown in the image here.
In the process of teaching these labs, Mike formed a close but unlikely relationship with Gary Galbraith from the Department of Dance. The two worked together to study and improve how students were performing the labs by integrating the students themselves into the experience. As we look to the future, Mike and Gary and their new insights will be instrumental in redefining how we teach physics and beyond.