Lawrence Livermore scientist engages students in STEM, using their phones

As efforts continue to try to get more students engaged in careers in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM), one Bay Area scientist has created a program, designed to break down barriers. 

Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory scientist David Rakestraw has developed, "Physics with Phones" over the past four years. The course, designed for high school and college students, allows students to perform more than 100 different physics experiments, using their iPhones. 

"Companies are putting hundreds of billions of dollars a year into making this better and to have all these features in it," said Rakestraw. "They can now be used to teach students in a class." 

Rakestraw recently took his program on the road to a physics class at Livermore High School. The students used their phones to measure concepts like velocity, frequency, and friction. 

"Having the ability for each individual student to have their own set of state-of-the-art sensors has allowed us to do all kinds of science we could never do before," said Susan Johnston, the class teacher. 

"Physics with Phones" uses technology built into the devices and applications that already exist. Rakestraw created the curriculum to excite students about STEM and more importantly, make complicated, often expensive experiments, accessible to all for free. 

"About a thousand teachers have downloaded this material every month, from all over the world, from my website," said Rakestraw.

The students in the class told us they were excited about the hands-on learning and the opportunity to see physics in action. 

"We can do the same experiments, the same stuff, as people who are spending millions of dollars by using our phones," said Varun Shashivarnam, a senior at the school. "It’s so much easier." 

It's a labor of love for Rakestraw. He’s put together more than 3,000 pages of curriculum in his free time. His goal, not unlike Newton’s law, is that students who are moved by science will remain moved by it, when barriers are removed. 

"This’ll be the most important project that I ever do in my life because the impact it can have is really remarkable," said Rakestraw. 

More information on "Physics with Phones" can be accessed here.