EMU Mathematical Sciences Department
Winter 2012
Back to top

Physics Education Research

Joe Hochstetler and his advisor Leah Boyer have been working to improve physics education. Their assertion is that “When projectile motion is presented to students in introductory physics courses, the air resistance is usually disregarded. […] However, the theoretical equations without air resistance do not provide an accurate model for the students in the lab. The lack of an accurate model is an obstacle for understanding the experimental results, and this difficulty creates frustration for the students analyzing their data.”

Joe presented their paper Projectile Motion with Air Resistance in General Physics Lab at two conferences: MARCUS 2011 (the 13th annual Mid-Atlantic Regional Conference of Undergraduate Scholarship) at Sweet Briar College and SUMS 2011 (Shenandoah Undergraduate Mathematics and Statistics Conference) at James Madison

Their new model was validated using a spring powered launcher with adjustable angle with a time sensor at the mouth of the launch tube in order to determine the speed of the projectile.

They conclude that “Not only were our theoretical equations that included air resistance straightforward to solve using standard calculus methods, but these equations also provided a more accurate model than the theoretical equations without air resistance. The model is not flawless and is deficient when compared to the experimental data. Nevertheless, it can provide students access to studying air resistance without complicated systems of equations.”

Back to top

STEM Activities

The Mathematical Sciences department sponsored two afternoon sessions for the Bridging the Valley program which brings some first-year students from four area colleges together for three weeks in the summer, prior to their first year, to support their transition into college.

A physics session with Leah Boyer included a hands-on lab where students were able to shoot a projectile down the hallway and take measurements that enabled them to verify models of throwing a ball.

The robotics session with Charles Cooley and Dee Weikle made use of newly purchased Lego Mindstorms robots and required the students to program a small car-like design with a color sensor to detect a red line, travel a specified distance and stop, follow a path and then retrace its steps.
Two students continued to work with Charles and Dee during the fall to write short survey papers. Gustavo Carbajal wrote about Web Security and Jacob Mack-Boll wrote about Open Source Software Development.

Bridging the Valley is just part of the National Science Foundation funded STEM initiative to promote the study of Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics.

At EMU, new STEM students are organized by major into “cells” for the purpose of laying a foundation for academic success, making connections with other students, and increasing awareness of STEM-related opportunities. An upper-class student serves as a mentor for each STEM cell; junior math major Elias Kehr has filled the student mentor role for the new math, computer science, and pre-engineering students this fall. Events for the group have included several lunches, a dessert and game night in the home of Owen Byer, and a meeting at EMU’s Common Grounds coffee house.

We are excited and grateful that the Summer Bridge program was able to purchase the Mindstorms robots. Two students have already used the robots for two courses as independent projects. And we are looking forward to incorporating them into more courses in the next year.

Back to top

Department News

Scholarship Recipient

Congratulations to Nicole Yoder, a first-year math and music double major who is the newest recipient of the Brenneman-Longacher Endowed Mathematics Scholarship! Like her three older siblings, Nicole made the trip to EMU from a home in the country near Wellman, Iowa. Nicole reports that she chose her majors because she enjoys studying both math and music immensely, she thinks both of these disciplines teach skills important for any area of life, and she “can somehow incorporate M&M’s while telling people my majors since they both start with M.” After completing her EMU degree, Nicole anticipates spending at least one year in service before moving on to graduate school or a job. As the recipient of the Brenneman-Longacher Scholarship, Nicole will receive $1250 per year for four academic years.

Homecoming Alumni Panel

On Saturday morning, October 15, the Mathematical Sciences Department welcomed back three recent alumni who served as panelists on a Homecoming Alumni Panel on graduate education. The panelists were invited to share about their post-EMU experiences and their varied career and graduate school choices made for an interesting discussion.

Rebecca (Hoover) Harris (2006) has recently completed a Masters of Education in Mathematics and is currently a math teacher at Broadway High School and an adjunct instructor at James Madison University.

Welby Lehman (2003) completed a Master of Architecture degree in 2008 and is employed at Blue Ridge Architects.

Aaron Trimble (2007) completed Medical School in 2011 and works as a Resident Physician at the University of Virginia in the Department of Internal Medicine.

Back to top

Problem Corner

For our previous Integram problem, Mark Risser, Jesse Blosser, Tim Brenneman, Kevin Nafziger, Dan Shenk-Evans, David George, and Denton Yoder each correctly determined that the river was 1700 feet wide. Denton was the only one to provide the elegant solution that did not involve algebra.

New Problem:

Our new problem returns us to geometry. Circle C has a chord of length 12. This chord is tangent to circle D, while C and D are concentric. What is the area between the two circles?

Send your solution to Owen Byer at

Are you (or do you know) a prospective student who is interested in studying math at EMU?

Contact Deirdre Smeltzer at for information about applying for the Brenneman-Longacher Endowed Math Scholarship.

Back to top
Winter 2012

Published by the Mathematical Sciences Department
Eastern Mennonite University, Harrisonburg, Virginia

Editor: Charles Cooley