Dr. Kiki's Science Hour 35

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Dr. Kiki's Science Hour
Episode 35


Zach Ronneberg, Science Teacher at Da Vinci High School, Davis, CA

Zach Ronneberg spent much of his childhood in his father’s shop tinkering and building things from spare parts, including an air-powered canon that could shoot an apple over 500 feet. Zach’s love of physics came alive in high school and he discovered a passion for teaching while studying physics at the University of California, San Diego where he worked as a TA and Tutorial-Session teacher.

After graduating from UCSD, Zach spent a semester teaching English to science and engineering students at the Technical University of Sofia, Bulgaria, and two summers working on the trail crew at Rocky Mountain National Park.

After earning his MA in education from UC Berkeley, Zach student taught at Longfellow Middle School and El Cerrito High School before teaching physics and Earth science at Skyline High School in Oakland. He has taught in Oakland, San Mateo, and Davis. His biggest accomplishment in his first four years of teaching may be integrating project-based learning (PBL) on a large scale. Starting in fall 2009, Zach will be teaching Physics and Chemistry at Da Vinci High School, a charter school in Davis which is part of the New Tech High School movement. The school has never offered science before, so Zach is responsible for creating and implementing 100% project-based Physics and Chemistry curriculums.


Making Science Matter

Zach's students are currently participating in the Energy Program Youth Corps (EPYC), an initiative of the UC Davis Center for Regional Change that will help train a new cadre of environmental leaders with the skills, knowledge, and motivation to address energy, climate change and conservation challenges. For this project they are learning to produce biodiesel from waste vegetable oil.

They are also writing a proposal concerning the environmental and economic feasibility of running the city's waste management and maintenance fleet of vehicles on biodiesel. Students may even present a proposal to the city council based on their findings.

Other innovative lessons Zach has created for his students include a project called Art Electric, through his students will create a piece of art that incorporates circuitry as they learn about electricity. This spring his classroom will turn into America's Next Top Science Rock Star, project in which students will build instruments and perform as a band while learning the physics of sound.

You may also be interested in Zach's use of technology in the classroom. Using a $40 Nintendo WiiMote and $5 worth of Radio Shack parts, he built a system with 90% the functionality of a $1500 Smart Board for classroom instruction. Check out more WiiMote technology innovation from Johnny Chung Lee at http://johnnylee.net/projects/.

Significant Products

Notable Quotes


America's Next Top Science Rockers

  • Students learn about sound and waves through designing, building, and playing their own instruments.
  • Also have done a session at KSTF teaching sharing this project with other teachers


  • Students learn about fundamental concepts of chemistry (density, moles, molar mass, stoichiometry) through the process of making and testing the properties of biodiesel. The culminating product is a written and oral proposal to the Davis City Council regarding the feasibility of running the city's fleet of diesel vehicles on biodiesel.
  • http://picasaweb.google.com/zach.ronneberg/Biodiesel?feat=directlink

Energy Audit

  • students work with the UC Davis Energy Efficiency Group to learn to perform energy audits and create a PSA about energy conservation

Jello Wars

EGGStreme Physics

Art Electric

  • Students learn about circuits through the process of creating an art piece that incorporates lights, motors and switches. Physics and art students will most likely collaborate on this project and stage an art show some time in march or april.

Stop Motion Animation

  • Students create a stop motion animation that illustrates the concepts of velocity and acceleration to the general public.

Rube-goldberg machines

Rideable hovercraft

Interesting Technology I use in the classroom:

  • Wiimote whiteboard
  • High Speed video camera (casio EX-F1) which can shoot up to 1200 frames per second
  • USB web cams (to create stop motion animations)
  • Vernier Lab Probes (photogates, motion detectors, force probes, etc)
  • ruben's tube (a tube which shows sound waves visually by translating them into flames)
  • bed of nails + cinderblock + sledgehammer




Production Information

  • Edited by: Erik
  • Notes:
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