May 6th, 2009

lolcat: science

Science outreach: building a theremin

I've been invited to run two physics projects at a summer school for Year 11 students (15-16 year olds). I have one project planned already: building a magnetometer and mapping magnetic fields around objects with it. As it is directly related to my work and I've used it before, I feel fairly comfortable with it.

The second project, building a theremin, is new to me. I found a company (Harrison Instruments) that produces a rather nice theremin kit within my budget of £70. Since the summer school only runs for a week, of which the students really only have three full days for the practical, I discarded the idea of having them build the circuit from a breadboard. I think they'd probably spend all their time learning about electronics and soldering if I did that, and there wouldn't be much time for them to learn any physics. The students will also have to give a presentation on the last day of the school. I thought it would be fun to have them learn to play the Doctor Who theme on it.

I'm planning to use the two oscillators in the circuit to help them learn about harmonics and beat frequencies. As I normally do my teaching at university level with people who have self-selected into science degrees, I'm having trouble assessing whether or not I should try to add any other conceptual illustrations to the project. This is where I'd like to hear the input of non-specialists. Answering the questions below, or any other remarks, would be most helpful. Please don't be afraid to fill out just a part of the poll if that's all you feel comfortable with.

Poll #1395736 Building a theremin

Does this experiment appeal to you?

Yes, I would like to build a theremin with you, Mad Scientess Nanila.
17(100.0%)
No, but maybe you could make it more exciting.
0(0.0%)

How can I make it more exciting?

Should I keep this a single-concept project?

Given their age group & time constraints, yes.
9(60.0%)
Don't underestimate them! Add something.
6(40.0%)

What conceptual illustration could I add?