The Visual Quantum Mechanics project, funded by the National Science Foundation (ESI-9452782), involves the development of instructional units that introduce quantum physics to high school and college students who do not have a background in modern physics or higher level math. To reach these students, the instructional units integrate interactive computer programs and digital multimedia with inexpensive materials and written documents in an activity-based environment. The goals of Visual Quantum Mechanics are to:
Interactive computer visualizations and animations provide graphical descriptions of quantum effects. Students learn to interpret and explain these graphics while the computer solves the equations.
Many small, inexpensive solid state devices are based on a knowledge of quantum science. By exploring the properties of light emitting diodes, tunneling diodes, solar cells and even glow-in-the-dark toothbrushes students learn about effects which cannot be explained with classical physics. They learn the quantum principles to understand the devices behavior.
All types of learning materials are needed to provide an adequate learning environment for the study of quantum science. Dialogs on paper as well as various digital formats enable students to explore phenomena such as electron diffraction and energy gaps in solids.
The Visual Quantum Mechanics materials consist of instructional units that integrate quantum science concepts into a typical physics course. The units, each of which requires about ten hours of instruction, can be inserted as students complete the study of certain classical concepts, such as conservation of energy. The materials can be used without a complete revision of the present curriculum and do not need to be placed at the end of the year.
All units utilize an active learning model of instruction. Students explore, learn new concepts and apply those concepts by using single equipment and interactive media.
By emphasizing the application of quantum science to devices which students see frequently, the Visual Quantum Mechanics materials help students understand that quantum science is all around them. Without quantum science they could not have television remotes, fluorescent lamps or many other everyday devices.