Physics

Student with magnetic chips

Offered at La Trobe University's Melbourne and Bendigo campuses, our Physics outreach programs allow students to explore radioactivity, electricity, magnetism, motors, optics, waves, sound, synchrotron science and more.

VCE

Radioactivity

For:Year 11, VCE Physics Unit 1

Available: By arrangement

Duration: 2 hours

Cost: $15 per student

Maximum: 20 students

Location: Melbourne, Bendigo

Students will use a Geiger tube to investigate the strength and randomness of emission from alpha, beta and gamma nuclear radiation sources. Using a variety of graduated filter materials, students determine the type of the nuclear source from its penetrability, and also if desired the linear attenuation coefficient of the filter material. Students watch a live demonstration of a technique called 'milking the radioactive cow' in which short-lived Ba-137 radioactive isotope is extracted from a Cs-137 source, from which they can then calculate its decay constant, and its half-life. The data generated may be copied for students and teachers to further analyse after the workshop.

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Transmission of Electrical Power

Outreach studentsFor: Year 12, VCE Physics Unit 3

Available: By arrangement

Duration: 2 hours

Cost: $15 per student

Maximum: 30 students

Location: Melbourne, Bendigo, Albury-Wodonga

Our society relies on the transmission of electricity to homes, schools and businesses, but transmitting electricity directly over long distances results in the loss of most of it.

How are the principles of physics applied to overcome these losses? In this investigation students safely investigate the transmission of electrical power using a kit model that simulates long distance power transmission through resistive transmission lines.

The kit allows students to transmit power at two different line voltages, by enabling or bypassing a pair of step-up and step-down transformers that deliver power to two different loads (lamps). Students make voltage and current measurements at every stage of the transmission process and compare their measurements and calculations with theoretical expectations. Teachers are provided with worked solutions and expected measurements.

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Photoelectric Effect

For: Year 12, VCE Physics Unit 4

Available: By arrangement

Duration: 2 hours

Cost: $15 per student

Maximum: 20 students

Location: Melbourne

Einstein's successful explanation of the photoelectric effect using Planck's quantum hypothesis was an important milestone in the history of physics. Using a mercury discharge lamp and a diffraction grating, students select discrete spectral colours to fall on a metal plate in a special detector that records the stopping potential for each colour. By plotting the stopping potential against colour frequency, students can calculate the slope from which Planck's constant can be determined. As a further test of Einstein's theory, graduated filters may then be used to investigate the dependence of 'stopping potential' with 'light intensity'.

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Middle years

Electromagnetism - Design and Build a Spinning Motor

For: Year 9-10, General Science

Available: By arrangement

Duration: Full day

Cost: $30 per student

Maximum: 30 students

Location: Melbourne

Do your students understand the principles of electromagnetism? Can they design, build and test an electromagnet or a spinning electric motor? In this full day program students learn through practical activities how to do both.

The program is delivered in two parts, each including practical activities designed to illustrate an essential principle of electromagnetism. Introducing each principle individually ensures clarity of message, and the hands-on learning gives students a feel for the invisible forces involved. Students then apply these principles in combination to maximise their final results.

Part 1 focuses on generating electricity and applying its associated magnetic field. It comprises five practical activities. Students apply the principles demonstrated to design, build and power their own electromagnets with capacity to lift weights of 100 to 200 grams.

Part 2 focuses on forces on a conductor in a magnetic field, with three practical activities delivering principles students need to apply to design and build their own electric motors.

This workshop addresses both strands of the Victorian Curriculum, reinforcing science understanding as well as science inquiry skills. Student notes and teacher guide are provided.

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FAR Labs

For: Year 9-10, General Science

Available: Book online

Duration: 1.5 hours

Cost: Free

Maximum: 25 students

Location: Virtual (requires computers)

La Trobe University’s Department of Physics has recently embedded The Freely-Accessible Remote Laboratories, or FAR Labs program, within its Physics program to allow high school students around Australia to use high-end scientific equipment without leaving their classrooms.

Designed to complement other workshops in our Outreach Program, FAR Labs is built around an online hub through which students can engage with contemporary scientific topics and supplement their learning via interactive, equipment-based laboratories.

The experiments are highly interactive with video feedback, remote control of equipment and data collection occurring in real time. Students log on to a dedicated website to select one of several experiments, and choose a level of engagement appropriate to their year level.

Recent projects include experiments relating to nuclear radiation, energy and environment, and structure and imaging – chosen to support areas of practical teaching that can be problematic for teachers to set up in class (due to health and safety issues, or prohibitive equipment expense).

A series of experiments and supporting materials, including student and teacher notes, facilitate engaging and relevant science experiments that can be completed with minimal supervision.

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Synchrotron Science - it's Brighter than the Sun

For: Year 9 and 10, General Science

Available: Selected dates only

Duration: Full day

Cost: $30 per student

Maximum: 25 students

Location: Melbourne

Middle Years students learn how the Australian Synchrotron works by participating in a beamline experiment from a remote access laboratory at La Trobe University.

In a special one-day Outreach Synchrotron session the students view live data collection and control parts of a real science X-ray diffraction experiment via remote access.

Students attend a lecture introducing Synchrotron science, with general background on the Synchrotron and its different beamlines, and then a specific explanation of how some beamlines are used in X-ray crystallography. They perform a hands-on experiment in the University’s Outreach lab where they grow their own lysozyme crystal – a simple protein crystal that is often used for instrument validation to test new experimental approaches. The students also take part in a live remote access experimental data collection in the data visualisation laboratory, and see how a crystallography experiment is run at the Australian Synchrotron. Students have the opportunity to control the Synchrotron robot themselves.

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Synchrotron Science and X-ray Crystallography

For: Year 9-10, General Science

Available: By arrangement

Duration: 3 hours

Cost: $24 per student

Maximum: 25 students

Location: Melbourne

The Australian Synchrotron is an electron accelerator the size of the MCG. It uses electricity to produce intense beams of light a million times brighter than the sun. Scientists use this high-energy radiation in a number of ways at various experimental workstations, with applications ranging from medical imaging to looking at artwork to investigating the structure of materials.

In this workshop students learn how the Synchrotron and X-rays can be used to see inside molecules and work out their atomic structure, using a technique called X-ray crystallography. This is the same technique that was used to find the double-helix structure of DNA.

Students grow their own crystals in a hands-on experiment and learn about X-ray crystallography and the Synchrotron, attending a lecture introducing Synchrotron science, with general background on the Synchrotron and its different beamlines, and then a specific explanation of how some beamlines are used in X-ray crystallography.

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