LTU physics students win national research award

Officers of the Lawrence Technological University chapter of the Society of Physics Students are, left to right: vice president Tia Abbas, president Alanna Makarchuk, secretary Maria Lomas, and treasurer Jason Best.

SOUTHFIELD—The Lawrence Technological University chapter of the Society of Physics Students has won a national Research Award from SPS to build a large pendulum that will be combined with a computer to teach students real-world applications of physics and differential equations.

LTU SPS chapter president Alanna Makarchuk, a computer engineering major from Taber, Alberta, Canada, said the $2,000 grant will provide materials for the students to build the three-foot-tall pendulum and its six-foot base and display.

The pendulum will be designed so that different masses can be placed on its swinging arm, and different lengths of pendulum and starting angles used. Combined with equations and the computer, the students will then be able to calculate the center of oscillation in the pendulum.

According to LTU physics professor George Moschelli, real-world applications of this pendulum analysis technology include balancing baseball bats to place their “sweet spot” in the right location for a hitter.

The project, Moschelli said, “will teach our students to connect experiments to mathematical models using differential equations, and to use a computer to automate the data taking and comparison to the model. The students will also have to learn to design and build the pendulum to optimize this process.”

The pendulum, to be built of wood and aluminum, will be designed to be portable, so it can be used in various classrooms around the LTU campus. The students are required to prepare an interim report on their work by the end of the Spring 2024 semester in May, and to have completed building the pendulum by the end of the Fall 2024 semester in December.

Besides Makarchuk, other LTU SPS chapter officers are vice president Tia Abbas, an electrical engineering major from Beirut, Lebanon; treasurer Jason Best, a computer engineering major from Northville; and secretary Maria Lomas, a mechanical engineering major from Waterford Township. LTU’s SPS chapter has been awarded “Outstanding Chapter” from the national SPS for the last three years in recognition of its excellent achievements in science outreach and promotion of women in science.

Established in 1968, SPS is an organization of the American Institute of Physics. Membership is open to any student interested in physics, including majors in physics, engineering, chemistry, computer science, mathematics, biology, and other fields. Within SPS is Sigma Pi Sigma, the national physics honor society, which elects members based on outstanding academic achievement. Aiming to improve the leadership and communication skills of its members, SPS has more than 700 chapters on campuses around the country.

In the photo above, officers of the LTU SPS chapter are left to right: vice president Tia Abbas, president Alanna Makarchuk, secretary Maria Lomas, and treasurer Jason Best.

Lawrence Technological University is one of only 13 private, technological, comprehensive doctoral universities in the United States. Located in Southfield, Mich., LTU was founded in 1932 and offers more than 100 programs through its Colleges of Architecture and Design, Arts and Sciences, Business and Information Technology, Engineering, and Health Sciences, as well as Specs@LTU as part of its growing Center for Professional Development. PayScale lists Lawrence Tech among the nation’s top 11 percent of universities for alumni salaries. Forbes and The Wall Street Journal rank LTU among the nation’s top 10 percent. U.S. News and World Report list it in the top tier of the best Midwest colleges. Students benefit from small class sizes and a real-world, hands-on, “theory and practice” education with an emphasis on leadership. Activities on Lawrence Tech’s 107-acre campus include more than 60 student organizations and NAIA varsity sports.

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