Experiences with ACE courses – Physics 143

30 May 2017

Academic and Civic Engagement (ACE) courses can be found throughout the Carleton curriculum and strive to provide a project with real-world applications for students and community-based learning. While each ACE course is highly individualized, hear about FOCUS student Jacob Bransky’s (2020) experience in Physical Systems: Mechanics and Relativity (Phys 143). 

Describe the civic engagement aspect of Physics 143. What were you doing and how was it integrated into the class?
For Physics 143, we created videos that explained special relativity to students at Northfield High School before they learned it in class. We made the videos as engaging as possible so they would be interested in the subject when their teacher taught it. My video was on the distortion of images as they move close to the speed of light and explaining using the pythagorean theorem  how we see the images when the viewer is 1 meter away. The students seemed quite blown away by the fact the implications of light moving at constant velocity and they seemed to get really interested when we described ideas of time not being constant from one place to another as they didn’t think some of the things that are possible were.

How do you see your work impacting the community?
I see my work as a resource for students at the local high school and at Carleton who are studying special relativity. The way we explain it may not click for everyone but hopefully it helps some people better understand the concepts related to that area of physics. I hope that we managed to keep some of the kids interested in physics and keep them excited enough to maybe try it in college.

How do you see yourself benefiting from this civic engagement project? What does this work mean to you – what do you think about the integration of science and community learning/education?
I definitely understood the concepts better after this project because I had to explain the video and special relativity with a partner.  He would explain parts of the subject that hadn’t completely clicked for me in another way. It also made me understand the subject better and be able to explain it in simpler terms so I had to be on top of my information and know it well. I liked having my end of term project actually be used and help people to understand an often difficult subject.

Did you pick this course for the ACE component or was ACE a consideration when choosing this class? Do you think you’ll seek out other ACE classes?
I did not know that this was an ACE course until you sent me the email during winter term. I did not know that such classes existed before our trip to the CCCE with FOCUS during winter term. That being said, I did enjoy the class and the ACE component because I felt that I was able to see a positive impact of me learning material and how it could be applied to another setting. I would definitely take another ACE class and would recommend it to others if they have the chance.

Does it matter to you that your coursework has ‘real world’ applications and impacts? Does it make the content more engaging?
I think that it helped me to see where I might use the class after I graduate from Carleton. It definitely was a fun project and I like making and editing videos so it was a good excuse to practice those skills. Having an ACE course can teach real world skills like how to teach or how to use video editor and my partner said with Spanish you can tutor in Math as an ACE course which sounds challenging but fun.


ACE Courses are split into Applied and Theoretical designations based on the content of the course and focus of the ACE project.

Fall 2017 Applied ACE
AFST 125: New African Migrations
BIOL 322: Ecosystem Ecology
CAMS 100: Looking at Animals
CAMS 270: Nonfiction
CGSC 100: Cognitive Development in Childhood
CS 399: Senior Seminar
EDUC 234: Educational Psychology
EDUC 340: Race, Immigration, and Schools
ENTS 100: Mining and the Environment
ENTS 215: Environmental Ethics
GEOL 120: Introduction to Environmental Geology
HIST 100: Soot, Smog and Satanic Mills: Environment and Industrialization
IDSC 298: FOCUS Sophomore Colloquium
MATH 280: Statistical Consulting
POSC 224: Measuring and Evaluating Social and Ecological Systems
PSYC 260: Health Psychology
SPAN 204: Intermediate Spanish 

Fall 2017 Theoretical ACE
HIST 226: US Consumer Culture
IDSC 2013: Talking about Diversity
POSC 120: Democracy and Dictatorship
POSC 225:Global-Local Commons: Sustainabliity, Diversity and Self-Gov’t in Complex Social-Ecological Systems
RELG 155: Hinduism: An Introduction