HIGH SCHOOLS

Help is here! If you're a high school student, you can use this site to get background information about HSC physics topics or ask questions on our Bulletin Board, where you'll quickly get a straight answer from either a UNSW physicist, the Board community, or both.

If you're a teacher and want access to our teaching resources, learn about our current outreach activities, or want some ideas about how physics education can improve student career paths, this is the place to start.

Resources for teachers (STANSW conference May 2014)
by Dr Elizabeth Angstmann

PowerPoint slides presented at conference

Below is a selection of resources that you may find useful. The video lectures, tutorial questions, and investigations for three of the topics presented in our online physics course “Everyday Physics” are available here. The investigations are designed to be carried out with common household equipment.

Why does your kettle boil?

In this topic you will be learning about temperature and heat (they are not the same thing but are related). You will be learning about the different mechanisms through which heat can be transferred from one body to another body. This will teach you why some objects are colder to touch than others even though they are at the same temperature (eg. you get cold much faster in water than in air when both are at 20oC).

You will then be learning about specific and latent heats, that is how much energy you need to add to change the temperature and state of a substance respectively. You will be learning about some reasons water is a very unique substance and why this uniqueness is vital for allowing us to survive on Earth.

Finally you will be learning a little about good experimental technique. As part of this topic you will be performing an investigation in order to measure the specific heat of water using a kettle.

Tutorial problems (.pdf)
Kettle investigation (.pdf)

Videos:

How does a hot air balloon work?

In this topic you will start by learning about gravity. In order to fly a hot air balloon has to overcome the gravitational force pulling it down. You will see how to calculate the size of this gravitational force. We will also be looking at air resistance. Newton’s universal law of gravitation implies that all objects should fall towards the Earth at the same rate but you would be aware from your everyday experience that this is not true, air resistance explains this discrepancy.

Next you will be learning about buoyancy and Archimedes principle. Hot air balloons lift into the air because they have a buoyancy force which is larger than the weight force pulling them down.

Finally you will be looking at the ideal gas law. This allows us to calculate how the density of the air inside the hot air balloon changes as it is heated. The change in density results in the buoyancy force.

Tutorial problems (.pdf)
Archimedes investigation (.pdf)

Videos:

How do glasses (spectacles) work?

In this topic we are going to start by considering the nature of light (is it a wave? Is it a particle? ... it’s both!). Then we are going to consider reflections and questions such as: When you look in a mirror why does it look like you are standing behind the mirror? Why/how is your image distorted when you look at your reflection from a shiny spoon? You will be introduced to the technique of ray tracing in order to describe these situations and answer these questions.

Next we will be considering refraction as light travels from one medium to another. You will be using refraction, along with ray tracing to determine where images are formed by different types of lenses. We will also be considering how large the image is and whether it is the right way up or inverted.

Finally we will be considering the human eye. Glasses are effectively lenses that adjust the focus of the image that arrives a your retina. When we consider eyes we will also consider how we see different colours (just because its interesting!).

Tutorial problems (.pdf)
Refractive index of water investigation (.pdf)

Videos:

Other Background material for teachers and students


Physclips Website (previewed above) includes mechanics, waves and sound, light, electric motors and special relativity.

Notes from development day February 2011

HSC Teachers Professional Development Workshop 2007 downloads

Information about the research in the School of Physics.

Interesting and inexpensive experiments for HSC Physics. Download the teachers' notes.

Preliminary Course

Core Components

Optional Components

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