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24 August 2004 @ 11:58 pm
More on Dad  
This is the email (slightly edited) that Bob Tinker, one of Dad's colleagues and friends sent out.

I was just informed by his sister that Bruce Seiger died Saturday of a heart attack after a long battle with ALS.

It has been my pleasure to know and work with Bruce for over 20 years first at TERC and then at the Concord Consortium. All this time Bruce taught physics and technology at Wellesley High School and lived in Newburyport.

Bruce provided invaluable input to many of our projects, particularly the earliest probeware projects (or Microcomputer Based Labs, as we called it then), Global Lab, and Hands On Physics. He was an extraordinary teacher who firmly believed in a project-based approach to everything. For example, one of his specialities was the Haloween "Splat" experiment, which involved dropping pumpkins of various diameters off the school roof and measuring how far they scattered on impact. He was always scrounging equipment for his students, from plastic film cannisters (he must have had a thousand and at least as many applications for them) to meters, oscilloscopes, and a complete growth chamber designed by our Russian collaborators. He always encouraged students to pursue their interests in complete confidence that he could make the connections to physics, technology, and other sciences, once he had the students hooked.

One might imagine that his teaching approach was not always appreciated by the powers that be. He really suffered under a department chair who insisted that his lab be neat and his students quiet. On the other hand, his students mostly adored him. Bruce's classes were great fun, but some scholarly students worried that they they shouldn't have so much fun and were not being taught for the tests. Bruce didn't have much sympathy with that, so perhaps it was a good thing that he retired in 2003, before testing had reached its current fever pitch. The real testament to his teaching came from the large number of students who returned to thank him after successful college careers.

For at least a decade, he would regularly come to TERC in Cambridge, staying late after a full day of teaching that started before 8AM. Since his home was in Newburyport, this commute was gigantic, but it never seemed to faze him--he slept only a few hours and seemed indefatigable. At TERC and later at CC, he would write, run experiments, build apparatus, or generally plug in to whatever was going on. He also traveled for us to conferences and run workshops or give talks about probes, hands-on learning, and Global Lab. In 1990 he attended the East/West Conference on New Technologies in Prague.

When we started the Concord Consortium a decade ago, he continued working with us, completely dedicated to our very first project, Hands On Physics (see http://hop.concord.org/). He contributed to this in many ways, helping conceptualize the project, designing experiments, testing our approach with his students, and giving workshops. Hands On Physics was strongly influenced by Bruce's teaching style; it consisted of projects that engaged students in building the equipment and electronics, undertaking an experiment, and extending the experiment to other projects. An entire year of physics could be covered by four to six of these projects.

Our activities at TERC and CC were not his only outside passion. He was deeply involved in using robotics in education. He co-authored a book that is widely used in teaching robotics and was delighted to have received the lifetime achievement award from the Technical Educators Association of Massachusetts- the Phil Tardanico Award. He mentored robotics teams from Wellesley that took first and third places in in the Boston Regionals and 3rd place in the the National Championships in Seattle Washington on August 7,8, 2001. He also participated in the development of Active Physics, a popular ninth-grade physics text.

His first wife died suddenly and unexpectedly in 2000 and he was devastated. But then he met Norah Burns whom he married on July 13, 2002 and became, according to him, " the happiest man alive," in spite of his ALS. Bruce's buoyant personality and ceaseless energy, no doubt, kept him going and contributing right to the end.

There will be a wake Friday night and a service Saturday morning both in Wellesley. The family asks that no flowers be sent and encourages contributions instead to a scholarship fund that will be set up at Wellesley Public School. More details will be forthcoming.



Dr. Robert Tinker, president
The Concord Consortium
Realizing the educational potential of technology.