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A Classic Case of Serial Murder
In this case study, a newly appointed medical examiner uncovers an unusual trend in drowning cases, which she suspects may be the work of a serial murderer. To prove that she is right, she must rely on instrumentation designed and tested by a team of s...

A Cool Glass of Water
Does an ice cube melt more quickly in salt water or in freshwater? The answer surprises the group of student science teachers portrayed in this case study. To explain the phenomenon they must figure out the interactions between two clusters of concepts...

A Fridge in Space
This case analyzes the principles of thermodynamics and the operating cycle of an adiabatic demagnetizing refrigerator (ADR), a piece of equipment NASA uses to keep x-ray detectors cold enough to work.  A synthesis of all the basic principles of t...

A Googol of Atoms?
What is a googol?  Invented by Edward Kasner, an American mathematician who popularized the number in his 1940 book, Mathematics and the Imagination, it is a 1 followed by a hundred zeros. This directed case in estimation and very large n...

A Light on Physics
This case study presents students with the challenge of working together in teams to win a photography contest. Some team members believe in aperture priority: pictures should be taken with as large an f-number as possible. The other members advocate e...

A Recipe for Invention
In this case study, designed to help break down stereotypes about scientists and engineers, students research the personal and professional lives of researchers in their field. The case was designed for use in high school to graduate courses in a varie...

A Tale of Two Houses
At Thanksgiving dinner, Uncle Bubba and Uncle Bill are arguing over whose house is more expensive to heat or cool: Bubba's Georgia home in the summer or Bill’s North Dakota home in winter. Student teams play the role of Bubba and Bill's niece or ...

An Electrical Storm on the Horizon
In this fictional case study, the state of Oklahoma has profited by giving incentives for companies to build power plants in rural areas of the state. The "scrubbing" systems used to minimize air pollution create potentially hazardous solid waste. ...

Applying Newton’s Third Law of Motion in the Gravitron Ride
A trip to an amusement park is the setting for this introduction to the concept of centripetal force in terms of Newton's laws of motion and vector quantities.  A student who is a physics major helps his friend understand the action-reaction force...

Deflategate: A Real Application of the Ideal Gas Law
This case study involves analysis of data collected as part of the National Football League's investigation into the New England Patriots allegedly deflating footballs to gain a competitive advantage in a 2015 playoff game. The scandal and subsequent i...

In the Eye of the Storm: A Case Study in Natural Disasters
This case study of Hurricane Katrina chronicles a college student's adventures with the Hurricane Hunters, a group of people from the Air Force Reserve who fly into the middle of hurricanes to collect atmospheric data for the National Oceanic and Atmos...

Rated MPG for Confusion
This case study follows a family’s dilemma about how to save money on gasoline. Should they keep their SUV and trade in their Corolla for a hybrid sedan? Going from 28 (Corolla) to 48 (Hybrid) miles per gallon (MPG) should really save money on ...

Sorting Trash with Static Electricity
Recycling plastic is an effective way to reduce waste in landfills. However, in order to effectively reuse recycled plastic, different types of plastics must be separated from one another. This is a time intensive task. Engineers in Japan have tested a...

The Benign Hamburger
In this dilemma case study, the executives of a popular restaurant chain must decide whether to use irradiated meat, in this case, beef, to protect its customers from the bacteria, E. coli. Students learn about food irradiation and discuss iss...

The Cheerleader and the Football Player
As the result of a wager between the school football team and its cheerleading squad, one of the cheerleaders has to lift a 300-pound football player off the ground. In this directed case study, students learn about the mechanical principle of the pull...

The Itsy-Bitsy Spider: An Analysis of Spider Locomotion
The evolution of physiological characteristics can be strongly influenced by physics. Animals whose physiology allows them to better escape predators will live longer, on average, and be more likely to pass on the genes that led to these favorable trai...

The Never-Ending Contamination
This case study discusses a possible national security crisis of a terrorist group stealing radioactive materials in an attempt to build and detonate a dirty bomb over a densely populated metropolitan area. Specifically, this case discusses radioactive...

The Zoom Lens
A motion picture company (circa 1950) is having problems with antiquated equipment. The director, actors, and crew all want the CEO of the company, who is notorious for being tight with money, to invest in a newly developed zoom lens. Students are aske...