The Physics Instructional Resources Lab (PIRL) provides support for undergraduate physics education at MIT.
This role is also shared by other entities in the Physics Education Group (PEG) including the Helena Foundation Junior Physics Laboratory and Physics Residential and Online Learning Lab (PROLL) which is also a subset of the MITx Online Digital Learning Lab.
PIRL was formerly known as the Technical Services Group (TSG), Lecture Demo Group (LDG), or Physics Demo Group (PDG).
All MIT students must receive credit for 8.01 (Classical Mechanics) and 8.02 (Electricity and Magnetism) in order to satisfy the General Institute Requirements (GIRs).
A portion of students receive prior credit for 8.01 due to scores on exams (AP, IB, international equivalents). Another portion receive credit for 8.01 and/or 8.02 through Advanced Standing Exams (ASEs) or transfer credit.
The remaining majority attend our introductory physics classes.
We support these versions of 8.01:
- 8.01: taken by most students, this course uses the Technology Enabled Active Learning (TEAL) format, including group problem-solving and digital content. PIRL instructors provide demonstrations, labs, and problem-solving sessions.
- 8.012: mathematically more advanced than 8.01; is intended for students with strong physics and math background. PIRL instructors provide demonstrations.
- 8.01L: longer version of 8.01, starts in the fall and continues into January, allowing students additional time to develop problem-solving skills. PIRL instructors provide demonstrations - as well as labs and problem-solving sessions when in the TEAL format.
- 8.02: like 8.01, presents material using the TEAL format. PIRL instructors provide demonstrations, labs, and problem-solving sessions.
- 8.022: mathematically more advanced level than 8.02; intended for students with strong physics and math background. PIRL instructors provide demonstrations and labs.
- 8.03: Vibrations and Waves. This class is required for majors in Physics (Course 8) and also Nuclear Science and Engineering (Course 22); it can also be used to meet major requirements for Earth, Atmospheric, and Planetary Sciences (Course 12) or fulfill MIT's Restricted Electives in Science and Technology (REST) requirement. PIRL instructors provide demonstrations and, historically, labs/kits.
We have supported historical and experimental courses with numbers like 8.01C, 8.01X, 8.011, 8.013, 8.02C, 8.02X, 8.021, 8.023, 8.033, and 8.04. The historic course progression through the 1970s included a number of thermodynamics, optics, and atomic physics demos in these intro classes.
We also support the Physics Pre-Orientation Program, the Cambridge Science Festival, MIT Museum visits, open houses, and one-off lectures.
History and Footprint
Prior to the opening of building 6C, TSG was housed in 4-309.
Our storage footprint spans about 8800 square feet of MIT.
Our primary workspace spans 6C-207 and its child rooms 6C-207A/B/CA/CAA/CB/6C-207CC/CD/F/G.
Historically, 8.01 and 8.02 lectures were held in 26-100, so we have storage below in 26-001/26-001M, 26-003/26-003B, and 26-002.
Now, with lecture classes in 6-120, we store demos in 6-114 (known as 6-116 before a wall was knocked down a few decades ago and soon to once again be known as 6-116 once a new wall is installed).
For TEAL classes in 26-152, we have storage in 26-160.
For TEAL classes in 32-082, we have storage in 32-082C/32-082CA along with the closets 32-085A/B/C.
We also have shops for academic use by faculty/staff in 6-210 and 6-212 - as well as the Physics Student Machine Shop in 6-214 which is staffed intermittently.
Our Faraday Cage demo uses a large Van de Graaff generator built by Professor Van de Graaff himself.
We have a Marconi Wireless Telegraph Company spark gap transmitter from circa 1901. Allegedly, it is the same model as was on the Titanic.
At least one of our large electromagnets predates MIT's move from Boston to Cambridge in 1916.
A number of our devices were manufactured locally by General Radio on Massachusetts Avenue. GenRad invented the "5-way" binding post, the variac, the oven-controlled crystal oscillator, the first tube-based RC oscillator, the decade capacitor boxes used in the first superheterodyne radio broadcast system, and, with MIT Professor Doc Edgerton, the Strobotac. Other disputed inventions include the banana plug.
We also have a number of films, transcripts, and guides relating to the work of the Physical Science Study Committee (PSSC). The project, which began at MIT in 1956, attempted to reform physics education by emphasizing principles and hands-on activities like demos and labs. The project, the first cirricular program funded by the National Sciece Foundation, eventually grew into the video production company Educational Services Inc. (ESI) which then became the non-profit Education Development Center (EDC). At its peak, the PSSC curriculum was used in over half of US physics classrooms.
|Group Manager||Joshua Wolfe|
|Gladys Vélez Caicedo|
|Andy Neely||Rishi Lohar|
|Charles A. Forte|
|Robert Mark Bessette|