Continuing our Meet the Department series. we stayed close to home in our Clavius building to visit another science - Physics. We sat down with Head of Physics Mr. Michael O'Duffin, who introduced us to the wonderful and exciting world of physics, and gave us some insight into his school days and what science was like for him growing up:
I came to the College as a Physics Teacher in 1989. Teaching methods have evolved significantly since then, but the greatest change to the way we teach Physics in the College came in 2002 with the opening of our Clavius Building on campus, which made an enormous difference.
Space was a major factor. The old labs we had in the Main Building were located where Business Studies, Classics, and History are now and were much more cramped. The prep rooms in particular were quite small. Now, each of our technicians has a spacious prep room that stores a very large amount of apparatus and equipment, and, importantly, has lots of preparation space.
When I started secondary school in 1976, the world was analogue – not only pre-internet but pre-digital. This may sound old rather fashioned - it was! We didn’t have iPads or mobile phones. The introduction of the electronic calculator with its large, chunky LED display was quite exciting at the time! By 1981, our school proudly took possession of a single computer!
Being part of the electronic revolution, I have seen technology develop and advance over time, with what is now on offer to pupils at St Aloysius’ College being incomparable to what went before.
While the content of much of the physics has remained the same, the technology used in our practical work has not. We now use state-of-the-art devices, such as smart model cars with in-built accelerometers that communicate wirelessly to pupil’s iPads, allowing motion graphs of position, velocity, and acceleration to be plotted in real time. The way we teach with this technology allows pupils to do so much more – and, I think, enjoy learning much more as a result.
From First Year at the College, we introduce pupils to experiments - having a dedicated science and technology building on Campus allows us to benefit greatly from well-equipped labs in carrying out practical work. Experiments are a great way of engaging pupils in learning, which is why it’s an extremely important part of our Physics curriculum. Pupils get to indulge their curiosity for the natural world and, when they eventually leave us, often go on to find careers in industries for which Physics is advantageous, from Engineering and Medicine to Finance, Management, and Technology.
At school I chose to study Physics because the logical, systematic way of thinking demanded clarity in answers, which appealed to me greatly. After graduating from the University of Edinburgh, I thought about a range of possible jobs, a number of which involved work in the electronics sector. But I didn’t see myself working in a research lab all the time. I wanted a job that had more interaction with people, so the idea of working with youngsters and teaching them appealed to me.
I can say even now, after many years of teaching, that it is being and working with St Aloysius’ College pupils that gives me the greatest joy – there is something unique about Aloysians. Revealing Physics to them, their reaction to it, the discussions we have, the fun, and getting to know them as individuals is vitally important in finding the role of teaching rewarding: all done for the greater glory of God. I think this is why I still find myself in a job that I continue to enjoy.