2017-05-03 / School News

Honors Physics students search for pulsars, build solar energy device

by John Brode


Ten Berkeley Springs High School Honors Physics students completed a six-week training on identifying pulsars with their science teacher John Brode. The class also formed a pulsar search club. Pictured are Pulsar Club members, left to right, Seth Gray, Garrett Morris, Anthony Crone, Eliza Caperton, William Gill-Newton, Billy Creek, Zachary Salman, Tyler Frazier, Joseph Affolder and Casey Youngblood. Ten Berkeley Springs High School Honors Physics students completed a six-week training on identifying pulsars with their science teacher John Brode. The class also formed a pulsar search club. Pictured are Pulsar Club members, left to right, Seth Gray, Garrett Morris, Anthony Crone, Eliza Caperton, William Gill-Newton, Billy Creek, Zachary Salman, Tyler Frazier, Joseph Affolder and Casey Youngblood. My Berkeley Springs High School Honors Physics Class (10 students) completed a sixweek training on identifying pulsars. A pulsar is a neutron star that gives off a radio signal as it rotates at very fast rate. These radio signals were first detected in 1967 by Jocelyn Bell and Anthony Hewish. Initially, they thought the signals were from an extraterrestrial civilization so they called the signal LGM-1. (Little- Green-Men). Currently astronomers have identified about 2,500 pulsars.

This past summer, I attended a summer camp at the National Radio Astronomy Observatory in Green Bank. During the camp, I was trained on analyzing data to be able to identify pulsars. Now I have trained my physics students to be able to identify pulsars.


Eleven high school students in science teacher John Brode’s Honors Physics class created a solar Fresnel lens device that could use the power of the sun to melt metals. Seen are students William Gill-Newton, left, and Casey Youngblood, right, holding the lens device. photo by Zachary Salman Eleven high school students in science teacher John Brode’s Honors Physics class created a solar Fresnel lens device that could use the power of the sun to melt metals. Seen are students William Gill-Newton, left, and Casey Youngblood, right, holding the lens device. photo by Zachary Salman During the training, they communicated with astronomers and other students, used a 20 meter radio telescope, watched or participated in live webcasts and passed two very challenging tests. The Green Bank Observatory has a dataset set aside just for students to search for pulsars. Our students have been looking for pulsars in the datasets. Maybe one of our students will discover a pulsar. We have also formed a pulsar search club called the “Pulsar Slayerz.” The elected president is Billy Creek.

Solar Energy Project

Each year, my physics classes select a project that involves using the Laws of Physics to build something that can be used in the classroom to teach future students. Recent projects have included a six-foot trebuchet and a large Van De Graff electrostatic generator. This year my Honors Physics class (11 students) decided to create a device that could use only the power of the sun to melt metals.

They have designed their device and are currently finishing the construction. Initial testing has shown that their creation can catch wood on fire almost immediately. An infrared thermometer measured a temperature of 500 degrees Celsius (932 degrees Fahrenheit) at the focal point. The melting point of aluminum is 660 degrees Celsius (1220 degrees Fahrenheit). I believe that they will reach their goal of melting metals when they are finished the construction.

The F.A.S.T. organization (Morgan County Forum for Arts, Sciences and Technologies) provided a $444.00 grant that funded the solar energy project.

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