Physics is a tough field to get students interested and wanting to seek careers, and yet it involves a wide range of fields with some very high paying jobs. The questions then arise as to how one can best get students interested in physics, and then how to better prepare students for careers in physics. Two questions, but closely related and you can’t have one without the other.
Getting students interested in physics is harder than it seems, or should be. To the average student, physics is just something to get through school and is mainly just a different form of math, and one they don’t think they can apply. Students feel physics is just about outer space and rocket scientists. They need to be taught that it applies to everything. Microwave ovens, x-ray machines, and even sonar on submarines and radar in planes are all applied uses of physics, and require physicists to improve them!
Sports is physics in motion. It is easy to see when you think about baseball or cricket, with the leverage of the bat hitting the ball and then the round shape, but the same applies to throwing the football or kicking a soccer ball. It is forces and directions. With car racing it can become complex with aerodynamic shapes to decrease wind resistance but then the faster it goes it starts to take off from the road and then the tire start to loose traction and as friction decreases, so does speed. Spoilers were designed using advice from physicists to solve this problem!
Once you have the students interested in physics and realizing all the opportunities it involves, you then can design classes that will better prepare them for a career in physics, but make the class interactive and exciting. Design a car using physics principles and get the students to build small models, and race them! Take apart an old microwave oven and learn how a linear accelerator works. Go out and throw balls, Frisbees and even boomerangs, then discuss force, motion and friction!
Will these things better prepare a student for a career in physics? Yes! It will give them practical experience and knowledge from doing things. With practical applications, even the theoretical physicist gets a better start. It also makes the class more interesting and fun for the students, and that means they won’t only learn it, but remember it as well!
Making any subject more practical and fun better prepares a student for a career in that field, physics is no different!