Adama Report April 2016

12 July 2016

April saw five days of practical physics training come to Adama, Ethiopia – but this was a session with a difference.

For the first time, the IOP was joined by a team from the University of Nottingham’s School of Physics and Astronomy, who brought an invaluable perspective to the project. The session was well attended by physics teachers from all over the country and provided a fantastic opportunity to learn and to share knowledge.

The Nottingham team was led by Professor Philip Moriarty and included four physics students: Tiago Gonçalves, Jarrod Lewis, Jeremy Leaf and Emma Woods. Some of the sessions began with the UK students giving presentations that aimed to use simple, locally obtainable equipment. Gonçalves’s demonstrations, for example, related to the specific heat experiment, which used an absorption analogy and demonstrated this through the use of sponges.

Similarly, slinky coils have been used for previous experiments relating to waves, but they’re not commonly available in Ethiopia. The coils can become over-stretched and easily tangled, so a simple method of demonstrating aspects of waves is an asset. Lewis used drinking straws with string and tape to make a neat model that could easily demonstrate the relationship between frequency and wavelength.


Physics teachers in Ethiopia are keen to improve their knowledge of electronics, electric circuits and electrostatics. Plastic bottles for drinking water are common and Leaf was able to use one to demonstrate the effect of an electric charge on running water. The simple method of rubbing the water bottle against hair or clothing was used to charge the surface. The UK volunteers helped the teachers understand the use of breadboards and how to build circuits during the main sessions on electronics.


Woods ran an experiment on resistivity, a topic that forms part of the grade 10 syllabus coursework in Ethiopian schools. This enabled teachers to calculate the thickness of layers of atoms, and to further develop their skills in plotting graphs and using multimeters. There’s always an element of the training course that goes beyond the syllabus in order to inspire the teachers, and this particular demonstration contributed to that aim.


Feedback from teachers who participated in the course was positive. Outcomes suggest that practical work undertaken in the classrooms is difficult because of lack of suitable equipment, but it’s now standard for training to include simple experiments that can be done with locally sourced equipment – and activities that can be done with no equipment at all.

Ethiopia continues to develop, and this will require good scientists and engineers both now and in the future. This project helps meet those skills demands by improving teachers’ understanding of physics and enabling them to better pass it on to their students, as well as opening up the opportunity for UK-based physics students to develop their skills further.

If you would like to read more about this programme there are posts about the training on Moriarty’s blog.