The New Jersey Section of the American Association of Physics Teachers (NJAAPT) is a professional organization whose focus is on physics education and educational research.  NJAAPT is committed to outreach and support for Physics teachers.  The majority of NJAAPT members are high school and college faculty teaching in New Jersey.    Activities and resources include Workshops, Conferences, Meetings, Sharing Sessions, Lectures, a Listserve, and a Website.

Click on “Calendar of Events” on the top menu to see the events that are offered this year.

President’s Message – February 2016

President’s Message

February, 2016


The new year is well underway and we have to wonder what makes time go by so quickly.  Before long many will be questioning each other as to whether they will have enough time to complete their physics courses to adequately prepare the students for their exams.  Time is becoming more precious to every teacher and with the additional requirements handed down from the state and federal governments, it is no wonder why teachers feel frustrated and under tremendous pressure.  How do you cope with this?  What can you do to make it easier on you and your students?  One answer is to partake in some of the activities offered by the NJAAPT.

It is very important that for an organization to prosper and serve its membership there must be active participation on the part of the members.  The NJAAPT has throughout its history sponsored workshops, make and takes, and meetings to fulfill its mission.  We have been very successful at providing opportunities to increase the information that teachers can use in the physics curriculum.

This past year, Jim Ferrara hosted a well attended and lively workshop on the changes in course and approaches to teaching AP Physics.  Even though a follow-up session had to be postponed to the snow storm of January 23, there will be another opportunity this spring to make up the session.  Jim presented some of this at our meeting last spring and has been invited to address the SEPA Section on this important topic.

Holiday Treats brought together our members and their families in a fun evening.  Boxes with classroom materials, a give-away table, and door prizes awaited the participants.

In the spring we will be sponsoring a Demo Night on March 4 at Princeton University.  This is a chance for our members to share a favorite demonstration in a very relaxed environment.  Why not show us what you do in your classroom?  Too often we feel that everyone has seen what we do, but not everyone does it in the same way.  Come join us and have a great Friday evening.

As you are aware, we hosted the Northeast Regional Meeting at Bergen Community College in October.  The result of the planning for this meeting meant that we had to make the decision not to hold a Spring Meeting as we normally do.  The effort to plan the Regional and a Spring Meeting seemed as if it would be an overwhelming task for the executive board.  Look forward to a Spring Meeting in 2017.

For those who attended the Holiday Treats, you heard my announcement that I informed the executive board last August that I will be stepping down as president of the NJAAPT effective at the end of this June.  It is time that someone else assume the leadership of the Section.

I believe that the NJAAPT will benefit from a person who is actively involved in teaching physics, someone who is directly affected the expectations of the Education Department, and be able to attend the national meetings of the AAPT.

It has been my pleasure to serve as president since 2002 and to meet so many great people in our Section and from around the country while attending the Winter and Summer Meetings.

John Valente is designated to conduct the search for individuals who would like to run for a position of leadership in the NJAAPT.  Each office is to be voted on  this May and it would be a chance for some new individuals to step up and continue the valuable work of the NJAAPT.


Ray Polomski

Lab Lecturer/Coordinator Position

Department of Physics & Astronomy
College of Science and Mathematics
Lab Lecturer/Coordinator

Full-time, 12-month, Lab Lecturer/Coordinator

The Department of Physics & Astronomy at Rowan University seeks an individual to coordinate teaching laboratories and classroom demonstrations for introductory physics classes and teach laboratory portions of introductory physics courses. Day-to-day activities shared between the positions include: instructional laboratory equipment set-up/take-down, classroom demonstration set-up/take-down, storeroom organization, instructional laboratory equipment ordering and repair, updating introductory lab manuals, classroom demonstration list maintenance, development and coordination of the introductory lab curriculum with faculty, training adjunct faculty on instructional lab equipment (as needed), and teaching three (3) introductory lab sections per semester. Candidates who apply for this position will also be considered for an identical full-time temporary position.

Candidates must have a Masters or higher degree in Physics, Physics Education, or related discipline. Training and experience with the setup and coordination of introductory physics laboratory equipment is required. Previous experience in teaching introductory physics labs is preferred. Candidates must be legally authorized to work in the United States.

Starting Date: on or about January 1, 2016

Salary Range: AFT $59,624

The application must be submitted through our online application system, http://rowanuniversity.hodesiq.com/jobs/lab-lecturer-coordinator-physics-astronomy-glassboro-new-jersey-job-5150460,as a single PDF file containing curriculum vita, a statement of teaching philosophy, and copies of undergraduate and graduate transcripts. Candidates must arrange for three (3) letters of recommendation to be sent on their behalf via email directly from their references to physics@rowan.edu with subject line “Physics Lab Lecturer Search.” All applications, including letters of recommendation, must be submitted by November 1 to receive consideration.


General Relativity at 100

Princeton University will be celebrating 100 years of General Relativity with a two-day conference, General Relativity at 100. The conference, which will feature ten colloquium-style talks by international experts on diverse aspects of general relativity and its fascinating history—from cosmology to quantum gravity, from black holes to neutron stars—will take place in Wolfensohn Hall on the Institute’s campus on November 5–6. The conference will also celebrate the seminal role of Princeton physicists, particularly John Wheeler and Bob Dicke and their students, in advancing an examination of general relativity.

A link to the event can be found at: https://www.ias.edu/gr100-announcement

The celebration will open on November 4 at 8 pm with a special performance of Light Falls: Space, Time, and an Obsession of Einstein, a dramatic portrayal of Einstein’s discovery of the general theory of relativity, at Princeton University’s Richardson Auditorium. Light Falls, written by Brian Greene, Member (1992-93) in the Institute’s School of Natural Sciences and Professor of Theoretical Physics at Columbia University, composed by Jeff Beal (“House of Cards”), designed by 59 Productions (“An American in Paris”) and directed by Scott Faris (“Walking with Dinosaurs”), is an original work weaving together dramatic portrayals, state-of-the-art animation and innovative projection techniques to trace Einstein’s electrifying journey toward one of the most beautiful ideas ever conceived.

A complete schedule can be found at: https://www.ias.edu/gr100

We urge the NJAAPT membership to attend this fabulous event!

Physics Olympics – Rules Clarification Procedure

Procedure for seeking clarification to the rules.



If a team wants clarification to an issue but they have a concern that asking the question will reveal their strategy, they may ask for a confidential ruling. This type of inquiry must occur at least two weeks prior to the event.  The judge(s) will respond privately to the team teacher.


If the judge(s) determine that part of that request is more of a clarification, and does not lead to a strategic advantage, it might be decided to reveal some part of their response.  For example, if a team wants to know whether a specific material can be used instead of what is listed in the rules, that kind of information would be shared.  On the other hand, if a team reveals that the careful reading of the rules would allow them to design their entry in a specific way, then that kind of information will not be shared, whether or not the judges determine that the specific request is not consistent with the rules.


Physics Olympics – Event 5 – Egg Catcher




OBJECTIVE: To construct a device (catcher) of minimum height into which a raw egg will be dropped from a height of   not more than 14 feet and that will enable the egg to survive intact (uncracked).



  1. The catcher is to be designed and built by the team from household materials and/or materials available from hardware stores and/or from art/hobby supply stores.
  2. The egg will be placed by the team into a Ziploc or similar brand sandwich plastic bag with dimensions of: 16.5 cm X 19.9 cm.
  3. The egg may not be altered in any way nor surrounded with any material other than the aforementioned plastic bag.
  4. The egg will be dropped from a starting height between 11 and 14 feet. The dropping height will be announced the day of the event.
  5. The egg must come to rest in the catcher and be able to be retrieved for inspection.
  6. If needed, the catcher must be designed so that it can be reused for a second attempt.
  7. No practice drops are permitted the day of the event nor are teams allowed to bring their own eggs; grade A medium eggs will be provided to the team.




  1. A member of the team will drop the egg.
  2. The egg must freely fall in a vertical path towards the egg catcher.
  3. If the egg cracks during the first trial or misses the catcher, a second attempt will be allowed.
  4. The team will have 30 seconds to repair their catcher if a second attempt is needed.
  5. No modifications are permitted to the catcher for a second attempt.
  6. The height of the catcher will be taken as the distance from the floor upon which the device is placed to a horizontal plane that intersects the highest point on the catcher.
  7. If a tie occurs, the catcher with the smallest area will win.



SCORE = Winning catcher height

             Team’s catcher height      





Updates to the rules will be posted on the NJAAPT web site at www.njaapt.org. Additionally, frequently asked questions with answer will be available by e-mailing John_Valente@mast.mcvsd.org. It is the team’s responsibility to keep updated about changes and clarifications to the rules.



Physics Olympics – Event 4 – Collapsing Tower

EVENT 4: Collapsing Tower




OBJECTIVE: To cause a domino from a tower of dominos to land in a collapse zone as far away from   the base of the tower as possible.





  1. The tower is to be built from only 80 dominoes of any combination from the following sizes:
  • Mini Dominoes – About 1-3/16″ long by 9/16″ wide by 3/16″ thick
  • Standard Dominoes – About 1-7/8″ long by 15/16″ wide by 1/4″ thick
  • Professional Dominoes – About 2″ long by 1″ wide by 3/8″ thick
  • Jumbo Dominoes – About 2″ long by 1″ wide by 1/2″ thick
  • Tournament Dominoes – About 2-3/16″ long by 1-3/32″ wide by 1/2″ thick
  • White Porcelain Dominoes – About 2” long by 1” wide by 5/16” thick.
  1. Each team will design and build their tower during the event.
  2. The tower will be constructed behind a taped line on a tile floor that is similar to most high school classrooms.
  3. The base of the tower must be entirely behind the taped line.
  4. One domino will have a string tied around it.
  5. The string may not be attached to or wind around any of the other dominoes.
  6. The domino with the attached string must be located somewhere within the tower structure.
  7. No additional materials can be used to build the tower or to cause the tower to collapse (e.g. Glue, tape etc.)
  8. The tower must be free standing.





  1. The team will have ten (10) minutes to construct their tower and alter the judge(s) that they are ready to collapse their tower.
  2. The team will cause the tower to collapse by pulling on the string attached to one of the dominoes.
  3. When pulling on the string to topple the tower, the string must be parallel to the ground and behind the tape.
  4. The string must be pulled in a direction opposite to the collapse zone.

The collapse zone is defined as the area beyond the taped line behind which the tower must be built.

  1. The tower cannot be touched while undergoing collapse
  2. The distance from (measured perpendicular to) the taped line to the furthest edge of the furthest domino within the collapse zone determines your score. Distance precision: 1mm.




SCORE =        (Team distance)        X 100

(Greatest distance)



Updates to the rules and frequently asked questions with answer will be available by e-mailing the event organizers at jvalente@ctemc.org. It is the team’s responsibility to periodically inquire about changes and clarifications to the rules.


Note: This event was adapted from the Yale University Physics Olympics


Physics Olympics – Event 3 – Bernoulli Ball



OBJECTIVE: To guide a Ping-Pong ball through loops using only a hairdryer.



  1. The team will bring their hairdryer to the competition.
  2. Any hand held, up to 2,000 watt hairdryer may be used.
  3. An extension cord provided by the team may be used.
  4. A mechanical device that modifies the output airflow may be attached to the nozzle of the hairdryer,
  5. No modifications (e.g., electrical or mechanical) may be made to the hairdryer itself.
  6. The team will be provided with a 40mm diameter Ping-Pong ball.
  7. The course will consist of a series of ring stands with attached ring clamps; the ring clamps serving as the loops. The ring clamps will have an inner diameter between four to five inches. They are similar to those found in the Sargent Welch Catalog No. WLS 73045.




  1. The ring stands with the attached ring clamps will be spaced around a typical high school classroom/lab room.
  2. The ring stands will be arranged in an area of 15 square feet.
  3. The ring clamps will be at different heights from the floor, ranging from a minimum of 40 inches to a maximum of 85 inches.
  4. The ring stands will either be free standing on the floor or clamped to a desk or lab bench.
  5. The number of ring clamps will be announced at the time of the event. The number of ring clamps and the course will be the same for all the teams.
  6. The team will be given 20 seconds to place a Ping-Pong ball into the airflow from the hairdryer. The team will then signal to the judge(s) to start timing.
  7. The team must guide the Ping-Pong ball through all the ring clamps of the course using only the output airflow from the non-modified or modified hairdryer.
  8. The ball must be levitated at all times by the airflow from the hairdryer while being navigated through the course.
  9. If the ball drops out of the airflow, a penalty of 5 seconds will be added to the team’s score. The clock will not be stopped while the team re-levitates the ball by placing it back into the airflow from the hairdryer.
  10. The team with the fastest time wins.



SCORE =     (Winning Time)   X 100 points

(Your time)




Updates to the rules will be posted on the NJAAPT web site at www.njaapt.org. Additionally, frequently asked questions with answer will be available by e-mailing John_Valente@mast.mcvsd.org. It is your team’s responsibility to keep the team updated about changes and clarifications to the rules.


Physics Olympics -Event 2 – Cantilever

EVENT 2: The Cantilever



OBJECTIVE: Design and build the longest cantilever structure using only straws and    masking tape.



  1. The team will design and build a cantilever structure and bring their cantilever structure built or partially built to the competition.
  2. The cantilever structure must include a cantilever segment, a counter-weight and a support base.
  3. The Cantilever structure is to be constructed from not more than 50 standard size drinking straws 0.70 cm or less in diameter and 20.0 cm or less in length and 25 feet of two inches or less width masking tape.
  4. The straws and tape may be cut.
  5. The cantilever structure must be free standing (i.e., no part of the cantilever structure may be attached to the testing surface).




  1. The team will have 10 minutes to assemble their cantilever structure.
  2. Once assembled, the team will notify the judge(s) that their entry is ready to be measured.
  3. The Cantilever structure will be measured on a tile (or similar surface) floor.
  4. The cantilever structure must stand free for 15 seconds to qualify.
  5. After 15 seconds, the judges(s) will measure the horizontal component of the cantilever segment from the end of the free end to that part of the cantilever that extends past the base (i.e., any part of the cantilever segment directly above any part of the base will not be included in the measurement).
  6. The counter balance segment will not be considered part of the cantilever segment.
  7. The longest cantilever segment wins.
  8. In the event of a tie, the cantilever structure with the smallest mass and longest cantilever segment will win.




SCORE =    (Your Teams Cantilever length)   X 100

(Winning Cantilever length)


Updates to the rules will be posted on the NJAAPT web site at www.njaapt.org. Additionally, frequently asked questions with answer will be available by e-mailing John_Valente@mast.mcvsd.org. It is your team’s responsibility to keep the team updated about changes and clarifications to the rules.


Physics Olympics – Event 1







OBJECTIVE: To estimate the order of magnitude of a quantity that is difficult or impossible to measure.





  1. Each team will be provided with a list of ten Fermi Questions.
  2. Each team will have 30 minutes in which to answer the questions.
  3. Each team will submit a single set of answers.
  4. All answers must be recorded in order of magnitude format

(i.e., 104 not 3 x 104, 106 not 7 x 105).

  1. No devices (cell phones, ipods/ipads, calculators, netbooks, computers, etc.) or preprinted references material shall be permitted to be used during the event.




Ten points will be awarded for each correct answer (correct order of magnitude). There will be 1 point off for each order of magnitude difference from the accepted order of magnitude. No answer will score less than zero.



Sample Fermi Questions:


How much land area (in square meters) is found on earth?

(Answer is 1014)


How many revolutions will a 14-inch tire have to make during a crossing

of the continental United State?                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            (Answer is 106)


How many liters of air does an adult inhale in a 24-hour day?

(Answer is 104)


How many square meters of turf (real or artificial) are there in

a national football league Stadium?                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                           (Answer is 104)


An automobile travels 100,000 km before the tire tread wears out.

What thickness of rubber wears off a tire each revolution of a wheel?

Express your answer in centimeters.           

                                                                                                                            (Answer is 10-8)


Updates to the rules and frequently asked questions with answer will be available by e-mailing the event organizers at jvalente@ctemc.org. It is the team’s responsibility to periodically inquire about changes and clarifications to the rules.