Austin Peay State University’s mad scientist makes lab videos for online students

Austin Peay State University mad Scientist Bryan Gaither. (APSU)
Austin Peay State University mad Scientist Bryan Gaither. (APSU)

Austin Peay State University - APSUClarksville, TN – A typical day in the life of Bryan Gaither, the Austin Peay State University (APSU) resident mad scientist (yes, that’s his official, Human Resources-approved job title), consists of small explosions, high-flying pumpkins (on fire) and bolts of electricity snaking out of a Tesla coil.

Austin Peay State University mad Scientist Bryan Gaither. (APSU)
Austin Peay State University mad Scientist Bryan Gaither. (APSU)

Ninety percent of the time, there’s a scientific explanation for the chaos that surrounds him, and last month Gaither decided to harness some of this madness for the Austin Peay State University’s now online physics, engineering and astronomy students.

On March 23rd, Austin Peay State University moved to fully online instruction for the remainder of the Spring semester to help slow the spread of the new  COVID-19 Coronavirus. That move, which followed recommendations from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), created a few challenges for students needing lab time to understand some of the more complex principals of physics.

So one Thursday, in an empty classroom in the APSU Sundquist Science complex, Gaither spent the day in front of an iPhone camera, rushing through as many physics experiments as possible.

“We’re doing a couple of one-minute videos so that the faculty can reference them in their online teaching,” he said. “Even though it’s just a quick, one-minute thing, I want it to be there online so they can say, ‘Now let’s talk about the depth of the concept behind this.”

The videos soon will be open to anyone interested in physics – particularly if you have a little extra time on your hands these days – and they demonstrate everything from conservation of angular momentum to a comparison of electromagnetic forces and gravity. There’s also, in true Gaither fashion, a few explosions.

In the future, the videos may become a regular online feature for Austin Peay State University’s mad scientist. For more information, visit www.apsu.edu/physics.