Magazine article Vocational Education Journal

This Time, Physics and Chemistry

Magazine article Vocational Education Journal

This Time, Physics and Chemistry

Article excerpt

The integration of academic competencies into vocational curricula is a great challenge for vocational teachers.

In 1991, we began a project to integrate math and English competencies into Alan Badeaux's welding classes at Crossland High School in Temple Hills, Maryland. That project led to positive results in the students' math and English learning and grade point averages (see Vocational Education Journal, November/December 1992).

As an extension of that original project, in fall 1993 we decided to integrate physics and chemistry principles in a welding fabrication project and in some metal experiments. As in our earlier project, the first step was to decide what kind of projects and experiments would allow the students to work on academic assignments and their welding projects or experiments at the same time.

The fabrication of fireplace grates and the heat treatment of iron metal rods were determined to be welding activities well suited for incorporating applied physics and chemistry concepts.

Thomas Wysocki, Crossland's physics and chemistry teacher, was consulted on specific experiments applicable to the welding activities. "It is critical that students see very little difference between science and technology," Wysocki said. "Students in welding need to understand the science behind metallurgy. On the other hand, students of physics and chemistry need to see the applications of theory."

Traditional experiments to determine torque, mechanical advantage and various heat treatments of metals to test for brittleness, rigidity and malleability were determined to be best for our purpose. The experiments were redesigned by the welding instructor--and reviewed by Wysocki--to meet specific instructional objectives of the welding activities yet still meet the goals of the physics and chemistry experiments.

These experiments were implemented as part of the student welding projects without the students knowing that the assignments were a new aspect of the curriculum. We wanted them to think physics and chemistry normally are included in welding class.

The first assignment focused on the physics experiment of determining torque and mechanical advantage. The second centered on determining the chemical reaction when heat is applied to mild steel under various processes. The students were broken into teams of two for these assignments.

The planning and preparation process took about six weeks. The greatest challenges were to effectively explain the physics and chemistry concepts, demonstrate and practice the equations needed to determine torque and mechanical advantage and get the students to correctly use the proper experimental method in the assignments.

Even though the students had little or no experience in completing a traditional physics or chemistry experiment, they were expected to follow the proper scientific steps and record their observations.

Slight modifications in the experiments were made during the implementation to make them more complete and student friendly. All completed assignments were graded by the science and welding instructors.


On the first day of the semester, students were assigned the fabrication of a fireplace grate. This project required the use of different lengths of round bars that were either one-half inch or three-quarters of an inch in diameter. Enough bars were cut for each student to bend seven of each size. Students cleaned the bars and manipulated them with a bending machine, then welding the required pieces to meet the design specifications for each fireplace grate.

The second assignment focused on the heating of iron rods and springs. First students heated four iron rods and subjected each to the process of either annealing, annealing and quenching or tempering. Next they created metal springs, which were subjected to the same processes as the iron rods. The students then noted the differences in the brittleness, malleability and rigidity of the various metals. …

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