DJ Wagner

Grove City College and Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute

Bringing Relevance to the Introductory Physics Classroom:

The Science of Information Technology

Monday, November 20, 2006

4:30 p.m.

CW 102

Nearly all current college students will end up in careers where, at the least, they use information systems on a daily basis. Many students, even those in non-technical fields, will someday hold jobs where understanding the operation and limits of computer systems will be advantageous. Yet most students majoring in fields other than physics or engineering (and, unfortunately, many students who study physics or engineering) will never learn just what a semiconductor is, why optical fibers are so superior for transmitting data, or why Moore's Law may soon fail. At Rensselaer, we developed a course entitled the Science of Information Technology (ScIT) which covers the physics behind computer systems. This course, which has no prerequisites beyond high school physics, has been taken by (and received highly favorable reviews from) students in diverse majors, including management, architecture, engineering, computer science, information technology, and physics. The materials from this course are all available on the web and are being modified for integration into more traditional introductory courses. In this talk, I will present data from attitudinal surveys and diagnostic tests motivating the need for coverage of these topics in introductory courses for all audiences, and I will demonstrate the available materials and suggest avenues for their implementation.