A $100,000 grant from Duke Power’s AdvanceSC will help change the way Converse students learn physics.
Converse physics faculty are in the process of revising their curricula that will scrap traditional course lectures and weekly laboratory sessions in favor of student-centered and discovery-based courses. AdvanceSC’s grant will be used for the redesign of Converse’s physics lab, professional development for Converse physics faculty and implementation of a Workshop Physics curriculum, which is considered by leading physicists to be the most productive model for physical science teaching and learning.
Workshop Physics eschews formal lectures in favor of collaborative activities and the use of computer tools for rapid collection, graphing and analysis of data. Students works in groups of two as they learn collaboratively through activities and observations. Class activities can include pitching baseballs, building electronic circuits and pulling objects up inclined planes.
“Our physics lab space will allow students to actually discover the concepts of physics on their own,” said Dr. Elena Méndez, associate professor of physics at Converse. “Physics evaluation research tells us that the best way to learn is by being given the time and equipment to test our ideas about how the world works.”
The redesign of the Converse physics lab will also allow for 12 computer stations, which will be placed around the perimeter of the room, and lab tables which can be easily rearranged for different activities. This will allow professors and students to use the center of the room to carry out large experiments.
The grant from AdvanceSC is especially timely as Converse and Clemson University have partnered to offer a dual degree program in engineering designed specifically to attract women with strong academic preparation and leadership skills to the engineering field. Participants of the program will complete three years of study at Converse and their final two years at Clemson, graduating with Baccalaureate degrees from both institutions.
“With the AdvanceSC grant, Converse will create a state-of-the-art learning environment and curriculum in physics, supporting the dual-degree program in engineering we are developing with Clemson University,” said Dr. Jeffrey Barker, vice president of academic affairs at Converse. “Providing the best opportunities for women in science and engineering is a natural extension of Converse’s mission and an economic benefit to the upstate and our country.”
AdvanceSC is a limited liability company that supports economic growth and public assistance agencies in Duke Power’s South Carolina service area. Established by Duke Power in 2004, AdvanceSC is managed by a board of directors independent of Duke Power. The board makes all funding decisions and is responsible for fund administration, including the selection and oversight of a fund administrator. The fund administrator is Wachovia Charitable Services, Greenville , SC.