The AP Physics C class has designed wheelchair ramps that could be placed around the school. To accomplish this, students utilized what they learned in class as a way to both design the ramps and to figure out what places in the school would need a ramp to provide access to wheelchair users.
This is an example of the type of lab that Math Department Head Neil Basu likes to give his classes. “[Basu] spoke about how learning scientific concepts is one thing, but the next step is actually using them to serve our society for the better,” Billy Kennedy (’13), a student in the class, said.
Basu reiterated his teaching philosophy of real-world application. “I think in advanced classes seeing how science is applied [in the real world] is important,” Basu said.
Applying their knowledge to build the ramps has proven to be a challenge. “This lab has actually challenged our class’s physics ability quite a bit. From a calculation point of view, we have the knowledge needed to gather all the information that we need. The challenging concept [was] to figure out what data [we needed to] collect in order to gain practical information to construct our ramps,” Kennedy said.
Some of these challenges consisted of using the data to design the ramp while taking into consideration how their ramp would be the most beneficial to the school, as this was one of the several components upon which their lab was graded.
Basu said that for the classes he teaches, this element of extra challenge is normal. “I strive to challenge my students to go beyond [what they think they are] able to do,” he said.
Lisa Ho (’13) said that the lab demonstrated “how [Basu] emphasizes the process of learning over the solution or the end product.”
The challenges that Basu’s teaching style presents to his students are met with enthusiasm. “He has proven to be an exceptional teacher,” Kennedy said.
“He’s not interested in seeing answers if we can’t explain how we got to them,” Ho said.
While students will not actually be building these ramps, they did everything from choosing where the ramps would be placed to figuring out how feasible it would be for their design to be built. Even though the ramps are not being built, “it gives us a perspective on how things are actually done and is very different from an experiment in the lab,” Viraj Nanda (’13) said.