Interactive Shockwave Physics

IPPEX Mission Statement

what IPPEX is all about - stuff you should know...

The Internet Plasma Physics Education eXperience (IPPEX) site on the World Wide Web (at allows students and teachers to participate remotely in scientific research at the country's largest fusion energy laboratory.

The approach to the scientific material in IPPEX is, as Paul De Hart Hurd ("Reforming Science Education: The Search for a New Vision", 1984) recommends, "holistic, ecological, qualitative, inductive, complex, and value-laden."

All students should develop a basic understanding of the principles, methods and vocabulary of science. Unfortunately, only one-fifth of US high school students enroll in physics courses. It is hoped that hands-on, discovery-based approaches to science will generate enthusiasm for science and dispel fears of difficulty.

IPPEX uses interactive multimedia over the World Wide Web to engage students in formulating questions and creating meaning from their own experiences. Rather than passively learning facts and following routine instructions, students solve problems and learn how to find information and solutions in complex, non-linear material (as actual scientists must). Some activities are similar to a video game or a CD-ROM presentation. Abstract concepts, such as nuclear energy, are developed from concrete experience and examples from everyday life.

Engaging background material on energy, matter, electricity, magnetism and the laws of motion is woven into a scenario that motivates today's plasma scientists: "By better understanding the forces of the universe we can harness the energy of the sun and stars to improve human life in an environmentally responsible way."

Students create a knowledge base that helps them operate a virtual tokamak (a fusion energy device) and analyze data from the actual experiment (which may have been acquired just minutes before) in the same way that professional physicists do.

While motivation from and discussions with teachers and other students is vital to learning, interactive web-based learning can be individual and self-paced. Students who feel threatened by the complexity of science may find web-based learning more appealing. The path through the knowledge web can be tailored to individual needs, whether for a special project in a gifted-and-talented program or for students who need more time to digest material.


IPPEX addresses 5 of the NJ Core Curriculum Content Standards for Science (from the February, 1996 draft):

5.1 All students will learn to identify systems of interacting components and understand how their interactions combine to produce the overall behavior of the system.

5.2 All students will develop problem-solving, decision-making and inquiry skills, reflected by formulating usable questions and hypotheses, planning experiments, conducting systematic observations, interpreting and analyzing data, drawing conclusions, and communicating results.

5.5 All students will integrate mathematics as a tool for problem-solving in science, and as a means of expressing and/or modeling scientific theories.

5.8 All students will gain an understanding of the structure and behavior of matter.

5.9 All students will gain an understanding of natural laws as they apply to motion, forces, and energy transformations.

IPPEX uses a variety of presentation approaches. For example, open-ended questions are used in some cases and, in others, answers to multiple choice questions can be e-mailed in. Some modules require students to proceed screen by screen, while others present overview material at the top level and students can delve into areas that interest them via "hot-links" in the text. Feedback from teachers, students and formal educational assessments may help us understand what works best for which students.

Personal background material is presented on the physicists and engineers to make the science more personal and value-laden.

Version 1 of IPPEX was produced during the fiscal year 1996 at the Princeton University Plasma Physics Laboratory as part of a National Science Foundation grant, administered by the Center for Improved Engineering and Science Education (CIESE) at the Stevens Institute of Technology. In fiscal year 2001 (which started October 1, 2001) the IPPEX web site will be in Version 7. This version of IPPEX web site will be field tested and extended to fit better with classroom curricula and with science education reforms.

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to view the interactive plasma display research website click here.