Online course platforms are good for easier topics, like manufacturing or history, but they only provide a sort of "X For Dummies" way to get overview knowledge of science (still, free is hard to complain about) but Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory is trying to do what Khan Academy, MIT OpenCourseWare or iTunes U and even Phet Interactive Simulations cannot - let students interact with a real physical experiment.
The U.S. Department of Energy's Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory has developed software for an experiment that can be observed and controlled from anywhere in the world. And a lot of it has been developed by high school and undergraduate interns.
The Remote Glow Discharge Experiment (RGDX) consists of a hollow glass tube with air held under vacuum. Supplying a voltage of up to 2000V generates a glow discharge within. The user has control of the pressure inside the tube, the voltage supplied to the plasma and of the strength of an electromagnet surrounding the tube.
Remote users can operate a plasma experiment with a set of controls, shown on the left side of the screen, and watch the effect on the apparatus at PPPL using the web stream video. Credit: A. Dominguez and A. Zwicker
The user can operate the experiment with a set of controls, shown on the left side of the screen, and watch the effect on the apparatus at PPPL using the web stream video, shown on the right. This "Remote Glow Discharge Experiment (RGDX)" consists of three main components:
- A live-streaming video that constantly observes an experimental apparatus housed at PPPL.
- A set of online controls.
- Information that explains what the user observes and controls, plus more in-depth resources that explore plasma and its uses.
Users are guided through steps that gradually increase their level of engagement and introduce them to new physical concepts and topics. If the user is interested in the physics behind the voltages, pressures and magnets, further explanations are given for each topic.
Audiences for the RGDX can range from someone simply interested in controlling a physical apparatus from afar, to an undergraduate or graduate student who wants to study phenomena such as instabilities in plasma or the physics behind plasma breakdown voltages. The RGDX can be used as a novel experimental component of either an online or in-class physics course, and the software can be adapted to a wide array of experiments.
Abstract: JP8.00006 Remote control of a DC discharge experiment, Session JP8: Poster Session IV: Education and Outreach, MHD, Alpha. Heating&Computational Methods 2-5:00 PM today Room: Plaza ABC. Source: American Physical Society.