Cross-institutional research in physics and astronomy leads to best undergraduate student paper

Hunter Stark, an Appalachian State University sophomore communication major from Charlotte, and James Howe, a Southwestern Community College senior and triple major in electronics, computer, and network engineering technology from Miami, Florida, have been awarded the best undergraduate student paper from the North Carolina Section of the American Association of Physics Teachers.

At each meeting of NCS-AAPT, undergraduate student papers are considered for an award, which includes a check for $100. In order to compete for the award, students must provide a presentation on their research. Stark and Howe worked with Appalachian State University’s Dr. David Sitar, astronomy outreach coordinator, in their partnership. “This was a great collaboration between students from different institutions and from different disciplines,” said Sitar.

The paper began as a lab assignment in spectroscopy. RSpec, the program around which the assignment centered, required calibration in order to allow students to more easily use the program. “The initial calibration, which can sometimes be difficult and outside the scope of the lesson, was the challenge. The objective was to allow students to bypass the setup and quickly jump into spectroscopy in a colorful and engaging way, while preserving the depth of the task,” said Howe.

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