“The pendulum is the most basic experience in mechanics and physics, in the topic of mechanics”, this is how Professor Horacio Fernandes, of the Department of Physics (DF) and researcher at the Institute of Plasmas and Nuclear Fusion (IPFN) begins by explaining the importance of the World Pendulum Alliance (WPA) for education and the significant role that the inauguration of the pendulum in Timor has for the local community. A remote experience that can contribute positively to the teaching of engineering, physics, science and physical chemistry, in what is the qualification of teachers in the experimental teaching of physics.
But what’s the point of the pendulum, why is it important? The force of gravity along the earth’s latitude varies. “The particularity of our pendulum is that it allows you to measure gravity with great precision. And therefore, it allows us to distinguish almost what latitude we are in,” explains the researcher. “The goal is to show the geophysical principles behind this variation of gravity that we feel along the latitude,” can be heard in the explanatory video, available on WPA website.
In practice, as the pendulum is taking its measurements, there is a data extraction, which records the altitude of the pendulum, while it oscillates. It’s by reading these data that it’s possible to identify at what latitude the pendulum is measuring the variation of latitude. “I can also do other physics experiments,” Professor says, referring to energy conservation measurements. A good teacher almost teaches the whole basis of mechanics based on a pendulum”, he assures.
The pendulum altitude varies while it’s oscillating. “Knowing the maximum speed and knowing how far the pendulum comes, when moving upwards, the student can prove the conservation of mechanical energy”, explains professor Horacio Fernandes. Asked about the need to have pendulums in several places, the teacher is clear and explains that this option is related to the study of geophysics. “It is, in certain parts of the world that they are not even very technologically advanced, that the pendulum is serving students who are in Germany or the United States,” he explains.
From the point of view of local communities, says the researcher, that “it’s very interesting to have this network of schools and teachers who feel, in some way, useful in training engineers, physicists, even to the level of advanced secondary education”, since students can enjoy these facilities. And schools with this equipment can play a more significant role in the dissemination of a tool that, sooner or later, always passes through those who study certain disciplines.
Maya Sampaio and Tomás Inácio are students of Técnico and know very well the Portuguese School of Dili, where the pendulum was installed. When asked what the pendulum represents for the school the answer is simple and clear: “Due to the geographical and technological barrier existing in Timor, pursuing a career in science because it seems something distant and unreachable to Timorese students with financial difficulties” these initiatives stimulate curiosity and serve as a link with the scientific community , since they allow to achieve greater knowledge in the field of physics, which would not be easily obtained without these initiatives between universities and the school.
Regarding plans for the future of this initiative, the teacher in charge, Horacio Fernandes, says that the idea would be to be able to develop specific massive online courses in the field of physics for local teachers, in e-learning and even b-learning, for a greater transmission of scientific knowledge.