In January of '98, the USC Department of Physics and Astronomy was awarded a Hewlett
Packard U.S. University Equipment Grant which is given to programs who are directly
involved with the undergraduate education of engineers. Rather than awarding a monetary
prize, our department was given $100,000 worth of equipment.
The proposal, entitled "Integration of Computer Technology into Physics Labs for Engineers",
was drafted by our Director of Undergraduate Affairs and USC Physics Alumnus,
Ty Buxman, and Professor Gene Bickers with input from Undergraduate Lab Director,
Kristin Sabo, back in the Fall of '97 in hopes of making much needed improvements in our
As part of the successful proposal, Bickers and Buxman suggested that the Physics
Department is the only department on campus that is guaranteed to teach every single
engineering major in a lab course. Ty Buxman explains, "Even Engineering departments do
not necessarily see every student. As a result, our introductory 3-semester physics sequence
has a significant impact on engineering students. The fact that the sequence is also the first lab
course for engineers simply heightens the impact."
The strength of the proposal was essentially in the development of new, innovative labs which
integrate the basic physics curriculum with computer technology.
Ty continues, "We proposed to use video cameras, video capture cards, and HP computers
to analyze 2-dimensional motion. Currently, we are developing labs which integrate the
electronics test and measurement equipment, such as oscilloscopes and function generators,
with computer monitoring software to improve how we teach students to use electronic
equipment for physics measurements. We will also use this software to allow students to
experiment with new concepts in the lab instead of simply requiring the completion of
Having received the equipment in the Spring of '98, Bickers, Buxman, and Sabo are working
towards a complete implementation of these new labs by the Spring of 2000.
Department of Physics & Astronomy / USC Physics & Astronomy Newsletters /