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The 160 hour EE myth

Saturday 9 November 2019

Our internal EE deadline was last night. I got 1 out of 5. Could be worse. Leane wins the prize for making the deadline. An interesting investigation about the relationship between the hole size in a Faraday cage and the signal received by a mobile phone placed in it.

So why is writing a sub 4000, let's say 3000 word essay so difficult? If I could type as fast as an average student I reckon I could write a grade A example in under 10 hours. A few years ago I thought I'd write a book. I worked out that if I wrote 8000 words a day I'd have a book in a week. So for a week all I did was write and that's not something our students can or should do.I should point out that I'm not talking about my physics book, that took a year of writing every day. 

I wrote an EE to see what it was like (My Essay). It took me two days and I got an A. I chose a topic I knew something about and used my knowledge to develop a reasonable theory. The experiment didn't support the theory so I did some research to find out why. I had an interesting conversation with Jonatan last week. His topic is to do with the motion of air bubbles in water pipes. He's having difficulty with the theory and I'm not surprised, it's very complex. To do a proper treatment he'd have to first complete a university engineering course. Use what you know. My daughter, Florence, has just finished a Masters in criminology. 6 years ago she did the IB , she wrote her EE in human rights. I asked her what she thought about her EE now, she laughed.

It was Jonatan who also told me the 160 hour myth. He found it on the internet. The internet is a great tool (obviously) but there is just too much readily available information. You tell a student one thing and rather than accept your word they go and get 1 million alternatives. When doing the IA I make it clear, "I mark this so if you take my advice you will score well". Do they listen? Some do. Leane listened when I suggested that she should just cut one hole in each side of her Faraday cage rather than 100. I don't think it afffected the results but saved 120 hours of careful cutting.

The mini thesis myth. I've been to many workshops where the presenter has distributed his best ever EEs. Wow! Where did you get that student from. I also have similar examples from exceptional students who have been to science academies since they could walk. This is not the norm. You can get an A with basic physics applied in a novel way.

The EE is a great thing. I really enjoy the interacting with my students at a deeper level. I try to get annoyed with them when they miss a deadline but once we start talking about physics all is forgotten.



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