SJND Chemistry Teacher Presents at California Science Teachers Association State Conference | Saint Joseph Notre Dame High School


SJND Chemistry Teacher Presents at California Science Teachers Association State Conference

During the weekend of October 14, SJND chemistry teacher James Fong traveled to the Sacramento Convention Center to present a hands-on workshop at the California Science Teachers Association Annual Conference.  During his presentation, Mr. Fong demonstrated a vacuum powered ping pong ball cannon that he built and uses in his classroom to demonstrate the power of atmospheric pressure.  This cannon is able to shoot a ping pong ball at a speed of 600 miles per hour clear through an aluminum can using only atmospheric pressure as its power source. 

Following the demonstration, attendees were provided with the necessary materials, tools, and expertise to build their own vacuum cannons to take back to their classrooms.  In addition, for the physics teachers in attendance, Mr. Fong explained the kinematic calculations required to determine the theoretical exit speed of the ball so they can teach their students to do the same. 

"Students learn better and get more excited about science when they witness firsthand the amazing concepts that science presents,” he explained.  Hearing the loud bang and seeing a can explode right in front of them up close and personal really gets them interested and motivated to do well.”

When asked what motivates him to be a presenter at a major conference, Mr. Fong said:

"This vacuum-powered cannon has been a big hit in my classroom for many years, but I have found that many teachers have not even seen one before, let alone know how to build one.  So I decided to package the demonstration and construction into a time-saving, one-stop presentation where time-challenged teachers can build and learn how to use this amazing teaching tool in an hour and a half.  Otherwise, it is too much trouble for them to shop for parts, collect tools, and learn how to build it on their own.  I wish that I could have attended a presentation such as this many years ago when I first started teaching.”

Left: Attendees attach valves to their vacuum cannons; Right: An aluminum can after being shot with a ping pong ball at 600 miles per hour.

Mr. Fong has been selected by the National Science Teachers Association to give his presentation at the National Conference this March at the Georgia World Congress Center in Atlanta.

“I have learned a lot from attending these conferences over the years and have now found something valuable that I can give back.  Having well-trained science teachers is of the best interest to all students and schools,” he explained.

Congrats Mr. Fong! We’ll be cheering you on from California.