Life as a Physics TA

As the teaching assistant for the PHY 151 and PHY 251 courses, my primary responsibility is to prepare the different labs that each class will be conducting each week. This is right up my alley since I gained a lot of experience working with special instruments and equipment as an armament repairer in the Army. I was taught how to troubleshoot, disassemble, assemble and repair weapon systems ranging from the M16 rifle, all the way up to the cannon of the M1 Abrams battle tank.

However,  when I came into the lab today and began setting up the experiment, I was stumped! The lab was to observe the effect of air resistance on falling coffee filters and to determine how air resistance and mass affect the terminal velocity of a falling object. It seemed simple enough, until I took out the motion detectors used to collects position, velocity and acceleration data of moving objects.

I looked at them and had no idea which side of the sensor was up and which was down. I had never worked with equipment like that before and began to panic, as the lab had to be set up that same day for an actual class. A few hours later, after painfully going through the instruction manual and taking a few photos along the way, I was successfully gathering data of falling objects with the set-up.

Even the life of a physics TA can has its exciting moments!


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