2023 Physics Capstone Symposium

Senior Physics capstone presentations will take place Monday, May 15th starting at 2pm in Morken 210.

Gann Wilcox – “Conservation of Electrical and Thermal Energy – a High School Lab Manual”
Typically, conservation of energy lab exercises only relate mechanical energy (kinetic and potential). These forms of energy are visually intuitive, but these limitations deprive students of the big picture of energy conservation. As a future high school physics educator, I have made a template for a lab experiment connecting electrical and thermal energy, gathered volunteers to complete trials of the lab to gain feedback to revise the experimental procedures manual. Results will be presented, as well as observations made during the volunteer’s trials.

Caimin Boland – “Optimizing a Putt-Putt Boat”
A Putt-Putt Boat (PPB) is a simple-looking toy with a complex explanation. Analysis of a PPB provides some very deep problems in fluid mechanics and thermodynamics. PPBs are extremely inefficient. This project was dedicated to designing a PPB that would be faster than commercial models. Using inspiration from valveless pulse jets and rocket motion, an optimized Putt-Putt Boat was constructed.

Ryan M. Shane – “The Doppler Effect in Circular Motion On a Horizontal Plane”
The findings of the Worcester Polytechnic Institute’s tabletop Doppler Effect simulation were replicated, where a buzzer was rotated in a horizontal plane at high angular velocity. The collected data are compared to the values generated by a modified form of the Doppler equation. This demonstrates the effectiveness of the altered experimental design in generating a measurable Doppler effect, supporting the findings of the original study.

Reece Painter – “Why Sunny Winter Days are the Best for Solar Cell Efficiency”
Contrary to intuition and popular belief, high temperature is not beneficial for the power output of solar cells. The efficiency of the cell drops at higher temperatures, and follows a negative linear relationship. Data will be presented on a representative cell, and the theory of the phenomenon will be presented.

Cole Johnson – “Optical Entrapment of a Polystyrene Microsphere Using a DVD Laser”
In this experiment, a DVD optical pickup drive is used to “grab” and isolate polystyrene microspheres (d ~ 10 micron) in a water solution. The consumer grade drive has been used in biomedical applications such as single cell isolation. A modified microscope is used to observe the scattering and gradient forces acting on the spheres, and the beam can be steered and focused using built-in coils.

LeighAnna Zielske – “Bouncing Batteries: Analyzing the Relationship Between Remaining Battery Capacity and Bounce Height”
It is known that alkaline batteries, when dropped, bounce to different heights depending on their remaining capacity. Samples of AA zinc alkaline batteries were dropped and the height of the bounce was measured for different levels of discharge. The height was found to increase with depth of discharge. The experiment was repeated with rechargeable nickel metal hydride batteries. Results and a theory of the phenomenon will be presented.