Where students own their education

first_imgIt looked like an episode of the TV show “Hoarders” outside the Connaughton Room in Pierce Hall last year. Stowed in lockers were a box of eggs, a Clapper, a bottle of rubbing alcohol, a set of dominoes, PVC pipes, a glass jar, pulleys, and a plastic racetrack — the raw materials for students’ design projects in Applied Physics 50 (AP 50), “Physics as a Foundation for Science and Engineering.”“We would throw out crazy ideas like mousetraps or Newton’s cradles or catapults,” recalled Ryan Alden ’14, a chemistry concentrator, “and the next day we’d have a bunch of mousetraps to play around with.”Grounded in a teaching philosophy that banishes lectures and encourages hands-on exploration, the course represents a collection of best practices gleaned from decades of teaching experience and studious visits to college physics classrooms nationwide. Considered the “applied” sibling to the “analytic, numerical, and experimental” Physical Sciences 12 sequence, AP 50 is being offered for the second time this year at the Harvard School of Engineering and Applied Sciences (SEAS), open to undergraduates from all concentrations.“The environment we created in AP 50 is really conducive to students taking ownership of their own learning and authentically assessing their own skills,” said Eric Mazur, Balkanski Professor of Physics and Applied Physics, who co-teaches the course with Carolann Koleci, preceptor in applied physics. “It’s about helping students apply what they’re learning within a real-world context.”“For today’s knowledge-based economy, it’s not so much what you know, but what you do with what you know,” said Koleci.Soundbytes: You can’t learn physics without breaking a few eggsA hands-on approach to teaching and learning in AP 50 helps Harvard undergraduates learn the foundational concepts in physics by applying them to real-world situations. “I’ve never taken a class like this before,” says Bernadette Lin ’16, “but I really love it.”Team-based design projects feature prominently. Last year, students reverse-engineered musical instruments, using the new knowledge to design “perfect” panpipes, zithers, and diddley bows. They used electronic circuits, laser cutters, and band saws to build secure safes and then crack the codes. They also built Rube Goldberg machines, contraptions that achieve a task — in this case, cracking an egg — through a chain reaction of motions.“Each project is sort of like a Trojan horse,” said Mazur. “I don’t tell them, ‘You should learn kinematics or momentum,’ no. The project requires them to learn kinematics and momentum; otherwise they can’t do it.”By several measures, the approach is paying off. The attendance rate was 97 percent last year. Last fall, AP 50 showed the largest gain on the force concept inventory, a measurement of students’ understanding of basic concepts, of any Harvard physics course in the last six years.It’s popular, too.“For the fall 2013 semester, we’ve had to increase the cap on enrollment from 50 to 90,” noted Koleci.“This course is teaching physics and engineering in a new way,” said SEAS Dean Cherry A. Murray. “But even more importantly, it teaches the skills that leaders in any field need: to work in teams and to solve problems among people with diverse perspectives.”To foster those skills, Mazur and Koleci issue open-ended challenges that force the students to brainstorm together instead of working silently and independently on paper.“It was definitely hard trying to get the initial spark going,” said Alden, who took AP 50 last year, “but once a couple of ideas started flying around, someone else in the group might latch onto that idea and change it a little bit, so basically no idea was stupid. And that was maybe the most fun: not only getting something that actually worked in the end, but finding 10 other ways that failed miserably, too.”Emily Lowe ’14, who studies Earth and planetary sciences and anthropology, was proud of her team’s accomplishment when, after many attempts, their contraption cut a string that released a catapult that launched a rubber ball precisely into a funnel. At last, elastic collisions and projectile motion made sense.AP 50 is not just about playing with mousetraps and bouncy balls, of course. But even the paper-based assignments are unconventional. In one class, Mazur and Koleci started asking questions about topics that hadn’t been covered: What’s the difference in electrical potential that leads to a lightning strike?“Yes, of course you could Google that,” explained Mazur, “but the point is to argue it from basic principles.”Suppose, instead of powering a 100-watt lightbulb for an hour, that energy was used to lift a 130-pound person. How high would he or she go? During the class period, the students work in teams to generate a realistic estimate.“It gives them a way of honing their qualitative reasoning skills,” Mazur said. “Sometimes what matters most in the real world is that you can accurately judge the relationships between things. We want to make them comfortable with stepping into unknown terrain, and tackling problems where there are no prescribed methods.”On homework assignments, students are graded according to how well they approach each problem, and how thoughtfully they reflect on any errors afterward. There is no printed textbook. Instead, a free, collaborative, online text lets students annotate their reading on laptops and tablets and engage in online discussions after class.And there are no exams — at least, none like you’ve seen before. The students answer a few questions individually, using Mazur’s Learning Catalytics system, and then compare their answers within a group, reasoning their way through any disagreements until everyone at the table settles on a single answer.“Traditional exams stifle creativity,” said Mazur. “Here, there’s no stress. They’re teaching each other, and more importantly they’re having fun. By the time the whole thing is over, you’ll see students talking, laughing, going to the whiteboard. It’s amazing.”“Applied Physics 50 has presented physics in a fun way, and [it’s] especially really interactive,” said Bernadette Lin ’16, while she perfected her team’s Rube Goldberg machine. “I’ve never taken a class like this before, but I really love it.” <a href=”https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Wzs2zXl_aZc” rel=”nofollow” target=”_blank”> <img src=”https://img.youtube.com/vi/Wzs2zXl_aZc/0.jpg” alt=”0″ title=”How To Choose The Correct Channel Type For Your Video Content ” /> </a>last_img read more

Ad Guru Drew Hodges on From Rent to Revolution, the Best Theater Book of 2016

first_imgBroadway advertising exec Drew Hodges has pushed Broadway artwork for over 20 years, spearheading some of the most iconic campaigns in recent memory. Finally, this year he shared some of the secrets of his success in On Broadway: From Rent to Revolution, our pick for the #1 book of 2016. This coffee table must-have from Rizzoli Publications digs into the back story on 89 theatrical smashes, flops and in-betweens starting with Rent and ending with Hamilton. Along the way, Hodges introduces you to all of the players who collaborate on shows: the stars, the producers, the writers, the photographers, the designers and all of the talents that make SpotCo, the ad agency that Hodges founded, one of the most well-respected shops around. What we especially love are all of the unused posters he shares along the way, many of which are honestly more striking than the final products. Be sure to wrap up this peek into the mind of a creative genius for the theater lover on your Christmas list!Broadway.com recently chatted with Hodges about the book and his career for our Building Broadway series. View Commentslast_img read more

Applause for ‘rounded vision’ of Rogers’ plan

first_imgTo access this article REGISTER NOWWould you like print copies, app and digital replica access too? SUBSCRIBE for as little as £5 per week. Would you like to read more?Register for free to finish this article.Sign up now for the following benefits:Four FREE articles of your choice per monthBreaking news, comment and analysis from industry experts as it happensChoose from our portfolio of email newsletterslast_img

USMNT forward Sargent to make Werder Bremen matchday squad for first time

first_imgUnited States international Josh Sargent will be in Werder Bremen’s squad for the first time this season on Friday, ahead of a possible Bundesliga debut against Fortuna Dusseldorf.The teenager joined the Bundesliga club last February after turning 18 but was unable to be registered for the remainder of the season since the winter window had closed. This year, Sargent has spent the entirety of the campaign with Werder Bremen II in the German fourth division, scoring seven goals in 12 appearances, all starts, for the team.In October, Werder head coach Kohfeldt had hinted that Sargent would see time with the first-team squad soon, saying: “This period in which [Sargent] plays exclusively in the U23s is over.”Despite that declaration, USMNT fans hoping to see the teen get his first-team chance have been left wanting, as Sargent had yet to make a squad through November.However, that is now set to change as Kohfeldt confirmed Sargent will make his first Bundesliga matchday squad for Friday’s visit to bottom of the table Dusseldorf.“He’ll definitely be in the squad. He’s earned it with his performances in training in recent weeks,” Kohfeldt said.If Sargent plays Friday, it will be his first-team debut for the club in any competition.It will also be Sargent’s first professional minutes, as he only played at an amateur level in the United States before departing for Germany in February.Having no professional minutes under his belt has not stopped Sargent from making an impact on the senior national team for the United States. Sargent made his USMNT debut in May of this year, scoring a goal in a 3-0 win against Bolivia. He has featured in a total of six games thus far for the USMNT, all in friendlies, scoring twice.Prior to his senior team debut, Sargent starred for the U.S. at the under-17 and under-20 levels.He scored four goals in five games at the 2017 under-20 World Cup in South Korea in June 2017, followed by three goals in five games at the under-17 World Cup in India in October 2017.last_img read more

Head Of The Des Moines Regatta Cancelled For Rowing

first_imgDES MOINES, Iowa – Due to the high water level of the Des Moines River, the 2016 Head of the Des Moines Regatta scheduled for Sept. 24 for the Drake University rowing team has been cancelled. The Bulldogs will now start their fall season at the Head of the Rock Regatta on Oct. 9.Print Friendly Versionlast_img

Ant What it Used to Be

first_imgA new species of subterranean ant discovered in Brazil is so weird, biologists have classified it as the sole representative of a new subfamily.  The alien creature has been whimsically named Martialis heureka: “the ant from Mars.”  An article about it in Nature News said, “It adds a new branch to the ant family tree which split off from the others extremely early in the family’s evolution.”  Trouble is, it doesn’t look anything like a wasp, from which ants supposedly evolved (see picture on National Geographic).    This has thrown ideas of ant evolution into a bit of a quandary.  Christian Rabeling, the discoverer, found that this ant did not fit into the existing taxonomy.  Scientists are calling this a relict species of a sister family they have named Martialis.  The original paper in PNAS says, “On the basis of morphological and phylogenetic evidence we suggest that these specialized subterranean predators are the sole surviving representatives of a highly divergent lineage that arose near the dawn of ant diversification and have persisted in ecologically stable environments like tropical soils over great spans of time.”  That makes it essentially a living fossil.  “Like the duck-billed platypus is to mammals,” explained Nature News, “it’s clearly a cousin to other ants, yet a weird and ancestral version that took its own evolutionary direction early on.”  This must be what the title of the paper means when it says the discovery “sheds light on early ant evolution.”    A look inside the paper, though, reveals a few problems with the confident assertions about evolution:A robust phylogeny is indispensable for elucidating the evolutionary origin of ants and for exploring the selective forces that have produced their extraordinary specializations.  Previously published studies, however, led to contradicting views of early ant evolution, in part because of high levels of morphological convergence, the secondary loss of characters, and a lack of informative paleontological data.  As a result, numerous taxa have been proposed as the most basal lineage.Recent attempts to find a robust phylogeny have now been dealt another challenge with the discovery of M. heureka.  Their phylogenetic tree shows it on its own branch, all by itself.  Another problem is revealed deep in the paper: “Second, the basal ant lineages seem to have originated in a relatively short period, potentially making the unambiguous resolution of their relationships quite difficult and sensitive to methodological error.”  The only suggestion of light being shed on ant evolution by this discovery is that it turns their attention away from the idea ants evolved from wasps.  What they expected, and what they found, were pointing in opposite ways:Our phylogenetic analyses, combined with the inferred biology of M.  heureka, suggest that the most basal extant ant lineages are cryptic, hypogaeic foragers, rather than wasp-like, epigaeic foragers (Fig. 3).  This finding is congruent with recent molecular studies, which previously suggested the Leptanillinae, another subfamily of subterranean predators, to be sister lineage to all extant ants.  This result has puzzled ant systematists for two reasons.  First, Wilson et al.’s classic study of the Mesozoic amber ant Sphecomyrma postulated that the ancestral ant was a large-eyed, wasp-like, ground forager, creating a strong expectation that the most basal extant ant lineages would also be epigaeic foragers, presumably similar to Sphecomyrma.  Second, the Leptanillinae [blind foragers in Africa] share common morphological and behavioral characteristics with the Amblyoponinae, implying the monophyly of this group.  In contrast, our results and recent molecular systematic studies suggest that blind, subterranean, specialized predators, like Martialis, the Leptanillinae, and some poneroids, evolved early during ant diversification.  We hypothesize, that once these hypogaeic predators adapted to their specialized subterranean environment, their morphology and biology changed little over evolutionary time because their hypogaeic habitat has likely been ecologically stable and provided a refuge from competition with other, more recently evolved, ants.  It is important to note that no definitive statement about the morphology and life history of the ancestral, Mesozoic ant can be derived from our current knowledge about the surviving basalmost ant lineages, because the relative probabilities of evolutionary transitions between epigaeic and hypogaeic habits are uncertain.They explained that the supposition that ants evolved from wasps relies on ambiguous data subject to alternative hypotheses.  One other problem with their suggestion that ants evolved from wasps is that Martialis would make the ant hypogaeic [underground] foraging evolve three times.  That’s why they are suggesting the basal ant was already a hypogaeic forager.  “The exact nature of the ancestral ant remains uncertain,” though, “given that the propensity for repeated evolution of a hypogaeic lifestyle may be higher than for reevolution of an epigaeic lifestyle.”    In short, no clear light seems to have been shed on ant evolution by this discovery.  It was a complete surprise.  What other surprises lie in store?  “This discovery hints at a wealth of species, possibly of great evolutionary importance, still hidden in the soils of the remaining rainforests.”    Stefan Cover, a curatorial assistant at Harvard’s Museum of Comparative Zoology, had a more humble view.  In the Nature News article, he said that Martialis “jars us out of going with our familiar conceptions… This is a lesson that we could probably import into studies of other groups.”1.  Rabeling, Brown and Verhaugh, “Newly discovered sister lineage sheds light on early ant evolution,” Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences USA, published online before print September 15, 2008, doi: 10.1073/pnas.0806187105.We can suggest some other studies of other groups where evolutionists could import this lesson: how about the Monera, Protista, Fungi, Plantae and Animalia? (the five kingdoms of taxonomy).    The discoverers put their weird little ant in a jar, but maybe the scientists need to be put in one, because Martialis “jars us out of going with our familiar conceptions,” Cover said.  While they’re safely in a jar out of harm’s way (unable to harm us, that is), let’s hunt for more rainforest species with great evolutionary importance.  Jarring evolutionists is fun.  Every new discovery jars them into realizing their neat little schemes are wrong.  They’re like blind hypogaeic foragers, digging around in their own dirt, thinking every new surprise is shedding light on evolution.    That phrase – “Shed[ding] light on evolution” – yields thousands of hits on Google.  We’ve examined dozens of those claims right here.  Can you remember one that has turned up a single photon?  The truth is they are walking in a darkness of their own making.  The light they need to see is the flashing red stop light next to the “Wrong Way” sign they missed back in 1859.(Visited 14 times, 1 visits today)FacebookTwitterPinterestSave分享0last_img read more

Border Cave opens for visitors

first_img15 January 2004An overnight camp for hikers and archaeology enthusiasts is being built at Border Cave, a Middle Stone Age site in the Lebombo Mountains in northern KwaZulu-Natal with spectacular views over Swaziland.Already in place is an interpretive centre featuring dioramas and models that tell the story of pre-historic human existence at the cave, as well as of archaeological excavations since the 1930s.A self-catering camp consisting of two thatched rondavels (huts), built from locally quarried stone, is due to open in March. One- and two-day hiking routes in the rugged mountain landscape have been mapped out for visitors.The camp will be operated by the local Mngomezulu community, who will also guide visitors to the cave – which overlooks a 500-metre sheer drop into Swaziland – for a modest fee.The first known inhabitants of the “Elephant Coast” took residence in the Border Cave, a large overhang in the remote Ingwavuma district, some 200 000 years ago.Some of the oldest evidence setting human evolution in Africa apart from that of Europe has been found at the Cave, where anatomically modern Homo sapiens remains have been discovered and over a million stone artefacts excavated.Analysis of some of the stone tools has helped scientists to date the introduction of tools crafted into blades and points.In 1942 the Cave yielded the remains of infant, dating back about 100 000 years, buried in a grave with a shell ornament and red stain suggesting that the body had been painted – pointing to a people capable of abstract and symbolic thought who probably communicated in a fairly complex language.If concern with life after death is taken as a sign of religion, then this is also the oldest record of religion on earth.Also discovered in the cave was the Lebombo Bone, the oldest known artefact linked to the basic mathematical activity of counting. Dated to 35 000 BC, the Lebombo Bone is a small piece of baboon fibula which has been carved with 29 notches, resembling the calendar sticks still used by San people in Namibia.Animal bones found at the cave indicate that these prehistoric inhabitants lived on bushpig, warthog, zebra and buffalo.The camp and centre are a project of Amafa/Heritage KwaZulu-Natal, with financial assistance from Tourism KZN.Source: Tourism KZNlast_img read more

Sappi unveils R800m empowerment deal

first_imgGlobal pulp and paper group Sappi has announced a black economic empowerment (BEE) deal that will see approximately 4.5% of the company, worth about R814-million, being transferred to employees, black managers, a community foundation and strategic partner companies. The second part of the deal entails the issue of approximately 4.3-million ordinary, listed shares to the participants of the group’s 2006 plantation BEE deal, namely Lereko Investments (who will now hold 0.37% of issued shares), Malibongwe Women Development Trust (0.08%), and AMB Capital (0.12%). 25 March 2010 “The transaction recognises the crucial role that our staff play in making the company a success and builds on the strong relationship we have developed with Lereko.” This transaction also includes qualifying Sappi employees represented by an employee share ownership plan, and follows the unwinding of the rights of all parties from the 2006 deal. New manager, employee trusts “Sappi views broad-based black economic empowerment as a key requirement for sustainable growth and social development in South Africa,” Sappi Limited CEO Ralph Boettger said in a statement on Wednesday. “We believe this investment will show significant upside for the consortium over the coming years. We are also confident that we will be able to assist Sappi in its other empowerment and transformation activities.” The first part of the deal consists of the creation of about 20-million of a new class of equity shares, which will be vendor financed and unlisted on the JSE, which will be allocated to three new trusts that have been created through the deal.center_img “Our relationship with Sappi has been substantive and has created significant opportunities for the consortium,” Lereko Investments executive director Lulu Gwagwa said. “While this work will continue, we are excited by the opportunity presented to us to become Sappi’s strategic partner at the holding company level. Strategic BEE partners “The transaction empowers our South African employees; will help attract and retain staff and in particular highly skilled black managers; and reinforces Sappi’s position as a responsible corporate citizen within the communities where we operate,” said Sappi Southern Africa CEO Jan Labuschagne. The deal translates into the empowerment of approximately 30% of the company’s South African business. “Furthermore, the transaction accommodates the key principles of [empowerment] and maximises the ownership component in terms of the Forest Sector Charter with Sappi moving from a Level Six Contributor to a Level Four Contributor on the Charter scorecard.” These includes an employee share ownership trust, which is for all Sappi full-time employees in South Africa who do not currently participate in a Sappi share scheme (holding 2.81% of issued shares); a management share ownership trust for all African, Coloured and Indian managers (0.67%); and the Sappi Foundation, which will focus on projects benefiting the communities around Sappi’s mills and plantations (0.45%). SAinfo reporterWould you like to use this article in your publication or on your website? See: Using SAinfo materiallast_img read more

SA fossils reveal new fox species

first_img28 January 2013 South Africa’s renowned Malapa cave at the Cradle of Humankind World Heritage site in Gauteng has yielded yet another discovery – a two-million-year old previously unknown fossil fox. The Malapa cave is one of the richest archaeological sites on the continent, and is best known as the resting place of skeletons of a new species of human ancestor known as Australopithecus sediba, found in 2008. The Malapa fox is the second new species, after sediba, to be described from this site. Professor Lee Berger, a palaeoanthropologist from the Institute for Human Evolution (IHE) and School of GeoSciences at the University of the Witwatersrand in Johannesburg, says the discovery is important for South Africa, and the world. “Malapa continues to reveal this extraordinary record of past life,” says Berger, who made the discovery of A. sediba. “Often everyone pays attention to the major hominin discoveries we make, but the discovery of a new species is a very rare thing.” “We find fossils all the time, many of animals that are extinct now but did live at one time. Prior to this discovery, the world didn’t know that this fox existed.” Researchers from Wits and Johannesburg universities and international scientists published the findings in an article in the Transactions of the Royal Society of South Africa on 16 January 2013.The cool factor Berger says when the fossil was discovered, carnivore specialists realised it was something that they had never seen before in science. The specimen they found at Malapa consisted of what looked like a piece of jawbone and parts of the skeleton – but the only way to prove it is an entirely new fox was through intensive research. The researchers had to analyse the fox closely to distinguish it from any living or extinct form of fox, based on the proportions of its teeth and other aspects of its anatomy. They named the previously unknown species Vulpes skinneri, in honour of the late world renowned South African mammalogist and ecologist Professor John Skinner of the University of Pretoria. Berger says the discovery can help scientists answer important evolutionary questions about modern African mammals, but it also reveals more unanswered questions about the origins of small carnivores such as foxes. “It can tell us more about the evolution of modern foxes and gives us insight into the ecology and world of our ancestors,” he says. “Now there is a whole new lineage of foxes out there that scientists can research.” Small carnivores often had much smaller and more localised habitats than larger mammals, and this is very useful to scientists. Berger says it could potentially help researchers learn more about the environment at the time.Mystery surrounds the ancestry of foxes The IHE’s Dr Brian Kuhn, head of carnivore studies at Malapa, says very little is known about the ancestry of foxes in comparison with other African carnivores such as larger dogs of the Canis group. “It’s wonderful to see a potential ancestral form of living foxes,” Kuhn says. Berger explains that so little is known about foxes because specialists studying small carnivores are very rare. “It is not a field of study often taken up by scientists.” Researchers also tend to focus on the study of “prestige animals” such as large mammals. He says smaller animals are also poorly represented in fossil records because often predators consume them entirely, leaving very little to study. And this is why the world’s newest fox is such an extraordinary discovery – it will inspire scientists to work on lesser known species and discover similar animals. Berger expects that many scientists are going to re-examine their existing fossil collections. If they take a closer look at what they have, they could perhaps uncover another new animal species. “I think we are going to see an explosion of interest in these small and very important mammals,” he says. “Who knows what we will find next?” First published by MediaClubSouthAfrica.com – get free high-resolution photos and professional feature articles from Brand South Africa’s media service.last_img read more

Freedom ‘is our common heritage’

first_img25 September 2013Telling the country’s history in an all-encompassing way shows us that the freedom we now enjoy is not “the exclusive preserve of any one social grouping but a proud heritage of all South Africans,” Deputy President Kgalema Motlanthe said on Tuesday.Motlanthe was addressing a Heritage Day rally at Sisa Dukashe Stadium in Mdantsane township outside East London.The Deputy President said that South Africans marked the national holiday “with the conscious understanding that there is a great deal about our history that is bad and hurtful, yet we must accept it as part of the growing pains of the free society we set out to create in 1994; a society that is united, democratic, non-racial, non-sexist and just.”Tuesday’s occasion also marked the 50th anniversary of the establishment of Mdantsane. Home to more than 500 000 South Africans, Mdantsane is one of the oldest townships in South Africa, and was a hotbed of political activism against apartheid.Earlier in the day, Motlanthe unveiled an upgraded memorial and laid a wreath at the site of the Egerton Massacre. In 1983, communities from East London and Mdantsane had embarked on a boycott to protest an unannounced five cent increase in bus fares.The boycott culminated on 4 August in what was later called the Egerton Massacre, which claimed 11 lives, with a further 36 commuters injured. The massacre took place at Egerton Railway Station outside Mdantsane, where police officials from the apartheid bantustan of Ciskei shot and beat residents.Motlanthe said that the struggle for South Africa’s liberation was waged by “the broadest cross-section of the people of our country and was not just about political freedom, but also about social, cultural, psychological and economic freedom”.Mdantsane, he said, had to be “supported with the necessary socio-economic infrastructure to realise its full reintegration into all avenues of South African life, and not continue as a reserve for the abode of the poor, the unemployed and the disenfranchised”.The Mdantsane heritage project, like all others in South Africa, should be “inclusive of the names, languages, places, people and cultures that were manipulated and falsified to bring about divisions,” Motlanthe said.“Unity of all South Africans is a guiding principle which should never be undermined by sectarian and parochial interests.”SAinfo reporter and SAnews.gov.zalast_img read more