Wooster Today - March 2017

DLI Thermal Physics in Action

By Brooke Thaler, Publications Teacher

As we shared in Alumni Links earlier this school year, Wooster has rolled out DLI (Deep Learning Initiative) courses for Upper School students. In Dr. Brian Sullivan’s DLI Thermal Physics course, students spent several weeks building stirling engines from soda cans, CDs, balloons, pipe, and florist foam. After much tinkering, several failures, and a healthy amount of frustrating deep learning, one of the engines started running!

As Dr. Sullivan describes it, "Everything in the room stopped (except the engine). There were some shouts of 'It's working!' There was a strange mix of celebration and disbelief that they were really seeing one of their engines work." He went on to say, "I have rarely if ever been prouder of students' work and learning achievements in a class. This kind of high-risk, time-consuming project doesn't generally fit into a course. It could never be part of an AP course. However, our new DLI model has made this kind of project possible. It has moved what could usually only be achieved in a garage or basement on nights and weekends into a classroom in the middle of the day."

Over the course of six months, the students went from knowing nothing about thermal physics, to achieving the breakthrough that spurred the first industrial revolution: an engine.

WiNK ("Wooster Ink") is Wooster School's online student news publication. WiNK serves as the student voice of our community, and provides readers with a weekly overview of what's happening in our students' lives. While most of the content is developed in our Upper School Publications elective, we rely on other students and faculty to be contributors.

Two of our WiNK writers, freshman Ollie Felicione and Ronnie Cushnie, interviewed Dr. Sullivan and one of the DLI Physics students about the experience. Read the WiNK article and see a video of the engine: "It Works! Dr. Sullivan's DLI Physics Builds a Stirling Engine"

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