PHYS 420C -- Physics Demonstrations

Fall-Winter 2023-24

Class: NEW TIME: Wednesdays 2-4pm         Room: HEBB 212 - the new Outreach Lab
Professors: Andrzej Kotlicki and Janis McKenna
Offices: HENN 260 (Kotlicki) and HENN 262 (McKenna) -- we are next door to each other in HENNINGS Physics
E-mails: My email most often gets read and answered evenings between 11pm and 1am.
Archive of Past PHYS 420 demos:
Webpage: (this is it)
CANVAS Learning Management System: Login with your Campus Wide Login (CWL), then choose PHYS 420C - Physics Demonstrations
Text: No text: notes and electronic resources will be used. They will be posted in CANVAS
Timeline: We meet as a class in the fall term only, September - December. We continue to work as needed in the Outreach Lab in January and February, until your demo is fully functional, your presentation complete, and your project is approved and deemed ready to be presented in a school.
Your presentations in the schools will take place in January or February, preferably by the end of spring break. Your final webpages, documentation, self-reflection are due early March, after your presentation(s) in the schools.. Most of your pedagogy and fabrication/construction work will completed by Christmas.
Facilties: Students who may need to use the Physics and Astronomy Student Machine Shop for construction of their demo project must first complete the Student Machine Shop Course (registration required, access using VPN) and should familiarize themselves with the Fundamentals of Machine Tools handbook. Student Machine Shop Course . Machine Shop users must comply with the Student Machine Shop Safety Regulations. We also have access to equipment, resources and assistance from our PHAS Technical Services.

Course Overview

Physics 420 is a physics demonstrations project course: Each student will design, build and document a demonstration and accompanying pedagogy on a topic dealing with physics, engineering or astronomy, present it as a classroom lesson in our PHYS 420 class and, after final approval, in a school. The demonstration projects are aimed at elementary or secondary students - your choice. PHYS 420 students will do the bulk of their work independently, using resources and facilities in the Outreach Lab (Hebb 212), and PHAS Technical Services, with guidance and feedback from both instructors. We meet formally in a weekly two hour meeting on Tuesdays in term 1 where you will present proposals, then status reports and demonstrations. We 'debug" and give each other a lot of feedback. You'll have access to the Outreach Lab, where you'll work on your projects throughout the week/term and can also meet one-on-one with the instructors in the Outreach Lab for guidance and feedback on your project. The class tends to be small, so we are all familiar with everyone’s project, and we all give and receive feedback and assistance on each other's work.


You can pursue your own ideas; please have a look at: PHYS 420 Demonstrations from previous years and UBC Physics Demonstrations Room Catalog. We expect you to create an original demo, and not repeat something we have, unless it has been significantly improved/modified.

What we look for in marking:

Timing is of the essence; Plan early: if equipment or materials have to ordered, expect up to a month's delay before delivery. Try to time these delays when loads are heaviest in other courses. Early definition of the project is essential; avoid excessive and time-consuming optimization.


No Final Exam -
5% Homework 1 - 1-page preliminary proposal, plus full annotated bibliography (3-5 pages)
15% Homework 2 - 5-page report, (including plans and technical details)
20% Presentations in class, 4 classes in November, assessed by all students and instructors
20% Presentation in school(s) in January/early February - Assessed based on review of USB-video of your presentation
20% Webpage/documentation of demonstration - due in February, after presentations in schools
15% Final assessment of project by instructors - based on originality, overcoming challenges, degree of difficulty
2% Self-assessment and reflection on project - due in February, after presentation in school(s)
3% Participation, and quality of written feedback and assessments of your peers' presentations.
The above grading scheme applies ONLY to students who have completed the two core course components: The videoed presentation in the schools, plus the Webpage/documentation of your demonstration. Any students who have not completed both core components will fail the course, and their final mark will be the LOWER of: ( the calculated mark using the above scheme, or 45%) - whichever is lower. ie you cannot PASS this course if you omit the demonstration in the school or the webpage/documentation of your demo.)

CANVAS course info and materials

Class materials, course handouts, course schedules, class bulletin/discussion board, homework, rubrics, your grades/progress, and other useful docs will all be in the UBC CANVAS Learning Management System, as materials are available.
Janis McKenna and Andrzej Kotlicki, UBC Department of Physics and Astronomy, Sept 2023
email either of us at and/or