Excursions to UNSW Physics

UPDATE for 2021: We are now able to take bookings for this year’s Excursions! Due to COVID restrictions student numbers and sessions will be reduced and other transmission and Hot Spot precautions implemented. These precautions are designed to keep us all safe and will be included in the information pacts sent to prospective visitors.


Bring your Year 11 or 12 Physics classes to UNSW Sydney to conduct experiments in our First Year Physics teaching laboratories, hear talks by our researchers about their work and see some of our working laboratories. We have an extensive list of experiments that can be chosen to tie in with depth studies specifically or general course work.


The experiments are generally facilitated by current university physics students and staff (our lab demonstrators), providing an excellent opportunity for your students to connect with real researchers (a ratio of approximately one demonstrator for every 12 school students).


Please note that we have a limited number of available dates since our labs are used for teaching our first year physics courses during the university term. A timetable can be found below.


To request a booking, please complete the booking form


For general enquires, or if you would like someone to call you to talk about excursions, please email us at schools@phys.unsw.edu.au or leave a message at (02) 9065 8089.




How long is the visit?

The 'standard package' goes for 3 hours. This includes:

  • two hours conducting a first-hand investigation in our First Year Laboratory
  • a building tour and/or talk from a researcher

However, many schools choose to perform two experiments and stay for the whole day.


How much does it cost?

We charge a small fee to cover the costs of offering this program.


Single session

  • includes a two hour laboratory exercise, research talk and/or tour
  • morning or afternoon
$20/student excluding GST (minimum $240 excluding GST)

Double session

  • includes 2 x two hour laboratory exercises, research talk and/or tour
  • all day 10 AM - 3 PM (3:30 PM with talk)
$40/student excluding GST (minimum $400 excluding GST)


How many students can I bring?

Our two labs can accommodate a total of 140 students at once. There is no minimum number (but there is a minimum cost).


What is the group size? How many sets of equipment do you have?

We have 36 sets of equipment for most experiments. The suggested group size is 2, but this can be tailored to suit the needs of the class. For instance, you may wish to have students working individually if the experiment is being run as an assessment task.


Can we do more than one experiment?

Absolutely. You could do 2 in a big day, or have two groups of students (for example, Year 11 and Year 12) each doing different experiments in separate labs. Keep in mind that most experiments take approximately 2 hours (some can be made to be shorter).


What resources do you provide?

We provide comprehensive worksheets for each experiment. Most come with pre-lab information and questions that we suggest your students to complete before they arrive.

Click here to see a sample of the experiment notes and solutions for pre-lab work.


What assistance do you provide during the task?

We provide a high ratio of experienced lab 'demonstrators' to assist your students during the lab. Their job is to help your students achieve the best learning experience possible.


Can't I just do these experiments myself in my own lab?

In some cases you might be able to do something similar, but we see our service as being of use because:

  • Much of our equipment is not found in schools, or if it is, there might only be a limited number.
  • We can provide up to 72 sets of data loggers and sensors, and 36 sets of specialised equipment for each activity.
  • We prepare the material and worksheets, provide demonstrators and run the experiments for you.
  • We add the experience of coming to a working university physics school, connecting with real physics researchers and seeing real physics laboratories.


What dates are available?

We are available for school excursions during the following times:


Term 1


Term 2

April 24th - May 30th 

Term 3

August 7th - September 12th

Term 4

November 20th - December 17th


What experiments can I choose from? How do they relate to the curriculum?

Below is a list of the experiments that are available for as part of your excursion for high school students. They are all experiments that we conduct in first year physics, adjusted for the Stage 6 Physics syllabus.

Each experiment is mapped to content from the Stage 6 Physics syllabus, and they also each address the Working Scientifically outcomes.



Links to Stage 6 Physics syllabus content

Equilibrium of Rigid Bodies

Investigating bodies in rotational and translational equilibrium. Uses specialised equipment allowing the balancing of up to 5 forces in different directions at once.


  • Determine the resultant of a number of vectors from diagrams drawn to scale
  • Determine the resultant force by resolving the forces into orthogonal components.
  • Investigate torque.


  • explore the concept of net force and equilibrium in one-dimensional and simple two-dimensional contexts using:  (ACSPH050) 

- algebraic addition
- vector addition
- vector addition by resolution into components

PH12-12/Circular motion:

  • investigate the relationship between the rotation of mechanical systems and the applied torque

Static Friction on an Inclined Plane

Measuring the co-efficient of static friction using an inclined plane.


  • Become familiar with splitting vectors into components
  • Investigate factors that influence the coefficient of static friction
  • Develop an understanding of the causes of friction


  • solve problems or make quantitative predictions about resultant and component forces by applying the following relationships:

  • conduct a practical investigation to explain and predict the motion of objects on inclined planes(ACSPH098) 

PH11-9/Forces, Acceleration and Energy:

  • apply Newton’s first two laws of motion to a variety of everyday situations, including both static and dynamic examples, and include the role played by friction



Use data loggers and an inclined plane to analyse collisions of a dynamics cart with a barrier.


  • Analyse various collisions and their elasticity.
  • Measure and compare the impulse in different collisions
  • Investigate ways of reducing maximum force during a collision.

PH11-9/Momentum, Energy and Simple Systems:

  • conduct an investigation to describe and analyse one-dimensional (collinear) and two-dimensional interactions of objects in simple closed systems (ACSPH064)
  • analyse quantitatively and predict, using the law of conservation of momentum  and, where appropriate, conservation of kinetic energy , the results of interactions in elastic collisions (ACSPH066)
  • investigate the relationship and analyse information obtained from graphical representations of force as a function of time
  • evaluate the effects of forces involved in collisions and other interactions, and analyse quantitatively the interactions using the concept of impulse 
  • analyse and compare the momentum and kinetic energy or elastic and inelastic collisions (ACSPH066)
Rotational Inertia

Use an angular data logging device to measure the rotational motion of a different objects. Introduces the concept of rotational velocity and rotational inertia and how they relate to torque.


  • Measure angular velocity
  • Calculate torque
  • Calculate moment of inertia
  • Use data logging equipment to measure rotational motion.

PH12-12/Circular motion:

  • solve problems, model and make quantitative predictions about objects executing uniform circular motion in a variety of situations, using the following relationships:

  • investigate the relationship between the rotation of mechanical systems and the applied torque

Specific and Latent Heat

Uses specialised calorimeters and data logging equipment to measure the specific heat and latent heat of fusion of water.


  • Develop an understanding of the difference in heat and temperature
  • Understand the concepts of heat capacity and latent heat.


  • explain the relationship between the temperature of an object and the kinetic energy of the particles within it (ACSPH018)
  • explain the concept of thermal equilibrium (ACSPH022)
  • analyse the relationship between the change in temperature of an object and its specific heat capacity through the equation  (ACSPH020)
  • investigate energy transfer by the process of:
    - conduction
    - convection
    - radiation (ACSPH016)
  • conduct an investigation to analyse qualitatively and quantitatively the latent heat involved in a change of state
  • model and predict quantitatively energy transfer from hot objects by the process of thermal conductivity
  • apply the following relationships to solve problems and make quantitative predictions in a variety of situations:
    • , where c is the specific heat capacity of a substance
    •   where k is the thermal conductivity of a material
Linear Oscillatory Motion

Use data logging equipment to measure the movement of a weight on a spring.


  • Measure the amplitude, frequency and period of a simple harmonic oscillator.
  • Determine spring constant.

PH11-10/Wave properties:

  • solve problems and/or make predictions by modelling and applying the following relationships to a variety of situations:
Standing waves on a string

Uses an oscillator to generate standing waves in a string. Length, string tension and driving frequency can be adjusted. Mass of string is calculated.


  • Observe and understand resonance
  • Observe, measure and manipulate standing waves in different harmonics.
  • Understand how the principle of superposition relates to standing waves.
  • Develop an understanding of the relationship between the mass and tension of a medium and the frequency, wavelength and velocity of a wave in that medium.

PH11-10/Wave properties:

  • conduct a practical investigation involving the creation of mechanical waves in a variety of situations in order to explain:

- the role of the medium in the propagation of mechanical waves
- the transfer of energy involved in the propagation of mechanical waves (ACSPH067, ACSPH070)

  • construct and/or interpret graphs of displacement as a function of time and as a function of position of transverse and longitudinal waves, and relate the features of those graphs to the following wave characteristics:

- velocity
- frequency
- period
- wavelength
- displacement and amplitude (ACSPH069)

  • solve problems and/or make predictions by modelling and applying the following relationships to a variety of situations:

PH11-10/Wave Behaviour:

  • explain the behaviour of waves in a variety of situations by investigating the phenomena of:

- reflection
- wave superposition (ACSPH071, ACSPH072)

  • conduct an investigation to distinguish between progressive and standing waves (ACSPH072)
  • conduct an investigation to explore resonance in mechanical systems and the relationships between:

- driving frequency
- natural frequency of the oscillating system
- amplitude of motion
- transfer/transformation of energy within the system (ACSPH073)

PH11-10/Sound waves:

  • investigate and model the behaviour of standing waves on strings and/or in pipes to relate quantitatively the fundamental and harmonic frequencies of the waves that are produced to the physical characteristics (eg length, mass, tension, wave velocity) of the medium (ACSPH072)
Electrostatic Field Plotting

Uses probes and electroconductive paper to map the electric fields around different shapes of electrode.


  • Develop an understanding of electrical potential
  • Map and develop an understanding of equipotentials and how they relate to field lines.


  • using the electric field lines representation, model qualitatively the direction and strength of electric fields produced by:

- simple point charges
- pairs of charges
- dipoles
- parallel charged plates

  • analyse the effects of a moving charge in an electric field, in order to relate potential energy, work and equipotential lines, by applying: (ACSPH105)

 , where U is potential energy and q is the charge

PH12-13/Charged Particles, Conductors and Electric and Magnetic Fields:

  • investigate and quantitatively derive and analyse the interaction between charged particles and uniform electric fields, including: (ACSPH083)

- electric field between parallel charged plates 


A constant current source is used to charge various unknown capacitors. Datalogging equipment is used to measure voltage with respect to time.


  • Understand that capacitors hold charge
  • Develop an understanding of the relationship between charge, time and voltage.
  • Understand how to add capacitors in series and parallel
  • Improve knowledge of practical circuits


  • conduct investigations to describe and analyse qualitatively and quantitatively:

- processes by which objects become electrically charged (ACSPH002)

PH11-11/Electric Circuits:

  • investigate the flow of electric current in metals and apply models to represent current, including:


  • Investigate qualitatively and quantitatively series and parallel circuits to relate the flow of current through the individual components, the potential differences across those components and the rate of energy conversion by the components to the laws of conservation of charge and energy, by deriving the following relationships: (ACSPH038, ACSPH039, ACSPH044)

Fields and The 'Slinky' Coil

A slinky is used as a variable density solenoid while a magnetic field probe is used to investigate the field in the coil. A value for the permeability of free space is determined.


  • Understand the nature of a magnetic field around a solenoid
  • Relate magnetic field to current, length and number of turns of a solenoid.
  • Perform calculations with the formula

  • Measure the earth's magnetic field and direction


use magnetic field lines to model qualitatively the direction and strength of magnetic fields produced by magnets, current-carrying wires and solenoids and relate these fields to their effect on magnetic materials that are placed within them (ACSPH083)

  • conduct investigations into and describe quantitatively the magnetic fields produced by wires and solenoids, including: (ACSPH106, ACSPH107)

  • investigate and explain the process by which ferromagnetic materials become magnetised (ACSPH083)
  • apply models to represent qualitatively and describe quantitatively the features of magnetic fields
Microwave Optics

Use microwave generation and detection equipment to investigate various phenomena associated with electromagnetic radiation. Microwaves operate at a larger physical scale than visible light so students can better develop a 'feel' for what is happening.


  • Measure and develop an understanding of interference, including double slit interference.
  • Measure and develop an understanding of polarisation
  • Optional investigations (less than 36 sets available):
  • Simulation of fibre optics
  • Michelson Interferometer
  • Bragg scattering

PH12-14/Light: Wave Model

  • conduct investigations to analyse quantitatively the interference of light using double slit apparatus and diffraction gratings (ACSPH116, ACSPH117, ACSPH140)
  • analyse the experimental evidence that supported the models of light that were proposed by Newton and Huygens (ACSPH050, ACSPH118, ACSPH123)
  • conduct investigations quantitatively using the relationship of Malus’ Law  for plane polarisation of light, to evaluate the significance of polarisation in developing a model for light
  • conduct investigations to analyse qualitatively the diffraction of light (ACSPH048, ACSPH076)


Spectrometer and diffraction Gratings

Use a spectrometer to measure the spectral lines of Sodium and Mercury laps. Using , the spacing of the diffraction grating is calcuated.


  • Describe how different gases produce different emission lines
  • Learn how to use a spectrometer
  • Understand interference and perform calculations using 

PH12-14/Light: Wave Model

  • conduct investigations to analyse quantitatively the interference of light using double slit apparatus and diffraction gratings (ACSPH116, ACSPH117, ACSPH140)
  • analyse the experimental evidence that supported the models of light that were proposed by Newton and Huygens (ACSPH050, ACSPH118, ACSPH123)

PH12-15/Origins of the Elements

  • conduct investigations to analyse qualitatively the diffraction of light (ACSPH048, ACSPH076)account for the production of emission and absorption spectra and compare these with a continuous black body spectrum (ACSPH137)
Emission Spectra and Thin Film interference

Uses a digital spectrometer (connected to a computer) to measure the emission spectra of various light sources (including LEDs). Uses thin film interference to measure the radius of a lens and angle of a thin air wedge.


  • Develop an understanding of thin film interference and thus perform physical measurements using the phenomena.
  • Develop a practical understanding of emission spectra
  • Develop an understanding of how band gap and spectral lines apply to LEDs.
  • Use measurements to calculate the band gap of LEDs


  • The Digital spectrometer can also be configured to measure absorption spectra.

PH12-15/Origins of the Elements

  • account for the production of emission and absorption spectra and compare these with a continuous black body spectrum (ACSPH137)
The Photoelectric effect

Use a photoelectric effect apparatus to investigate the photoelectric effect. Calculate a value for Planck's constant and the work function of the cathode.


  • Develop a practical understanding of the photoelectric effect
  • Calculate a value for Planck's constant and work function of a substance.

PH12-14/Light: Quantum Model

  • analyse the experimental evidence gathered about black body radiation, including Wien’s Law related to Planck's contribution to a changed model of light (ACSPH137)

  • investigate the evidence from photoelectric effect investigations that demonstrated inconsistency with the wave model for light (ACSPH087, ACSPH123, ACSPH137)
  • analyse the photoelectric effect as it occurs in metallic elements by applying the law of conservation of energy and the photon model of light, (ACSPH119)

Gravitational field strength, g using a pendulum and/or Atwood's machine.

Use datalogging equipment to either:

  • measure the periods of a pendulum; and/or
  • measure the acceleration of an Atwood's machine

to determine a local value for gravitational field strength, g


  • Develop an understanding of collecting and processing data in a way that improves accuracy.

PH12-12/Gravitational fields

  • apply qualitatively and quantitatively Newton’s Law of Universal Gravitation to:

– investigate the factors that affect the gravitational field strength

– predict the gravitational field strength at any point in a gravitational field, including at the surface of a planet (ACSPH094, ACSPH095, ACSPH097)