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Industrial R&D Activity

Sometimes there’s a skill or content area you want your students to have, but it doesn’t represent a full course’s worth of material. Or, it’s an as-you-need-it skill to apply to a particular project or situation. Already utilized in several disciplines, the pop-up course is just as applicable to physics education.

The Rochester Institute of Technology (RIT) has prototyped a number of pop-ups that bring skills to students. Need your students to gain basic electronic assembly skills? Build Arduino-based projects? Learn a 3D CAD program? A short, one- to few-day experience may be all you need to achieve the learning goals. Taught outside of the “usual” course structure, pop-ups let you enhance student learning without, necessarily, complicating course scheduling and teaching loads.

Activity Description

Students give oral presentation on truly modern (post 1960) technologies developed in industry, focusing specifically on the legal, patent, industrial competition aspects of development, rather than the physics.

Learning Objectives

  • Students see how many technologies have been developed through industrial R&D
  • Students appreciate the role of serendipity in discovery
  • Students are aware that industrial research leads to real scientific discovery, in addition to cool technologies
  • Students learn how to give a 5-10 minute oral presentation, to an audience from diverse backgrounds (i.e. faculty and peers)


Home prep followed by in-classroom presentation (120 minutes/5-10 min per student)

Target audience

Sophomore physics majors

Suggested context for implementation

You could invite students to suggest their own technologies, provided they are focused on applications or apparatus.