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2004 SPS National Interns
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Matthew Shanks Matthew Shanks
Rhodes College, TN

Internship: SPS Outreach/MRSEC
Online Journal
Week of July 30, 2006 Week of July 9, 2006 Week of June 18, 2006
Week of July 23, 2006 Week of July 2, 2006 Week of June 11, 2006
Week of July 16, 2006 Week of June 25, 2006  
July 30 , 2004

The Last Entry That Is Once Again Late

This past week has been a flurry of activity and craziness. So last weekend was a bust as far as I can remember, nothing major done. Wait, I do remember something, The Holocaust Museum. Heather and I headed out bright and early on Saturday to visit the Holocaust Museum. Our tickets were for 10:30 and by the time we got to the line to get them and through security it was time for us to go in. Really the only thing I can say is that it took us more than 4 hours to go through the entire thing and I felt very tired afterward. The sadness and anger and horror at what happened just wiped me out. I do feel that it was an important thing to do though, it certainly reminds you of the importance of the very basic ties that bind all of humanity together and the importance of not turning a blind eye when people are in need or danger.

Monday was camp and work, I know we did something in camp but I don't remember what. Tuesday was presentations, I was nervous but that wore off quickly once we actually started. Also Tuesday afternoon we the interns, Jack, Liz, and Gary all headed out to AGU where we learned about lobbying and what you can and can't do. Afterward Heather and I went back to MRSEC to attend a going away party for Jimmy. After that we headed to Lindy's for a couple drinks and some fries.

Wednesday I came in a couple hours early since I was spending all of the day with my camp at the Smithsonian. The Smithsonian was crazy and annoying trying to keep my group together and in line. Thursday I spent the morning at AIP and the afternoon at MRSEC again at camp. Friday I went in to MRSEC in the morning where the kids did evaluations, we took pictures, and I left at lunch to get my check and head back to AIP. During the afternoon I got a fair amount of work done on the SOCK which was good.

What I've learned this week is that I hate to leave camp. This time around I had to leave the kids and deal with their questions on why I was leaving. It was hard to tell them I had to leave and wouldn't see them again. I really enjoyed getting to know them and I hope they don't fall into the pitfall of believing learning isn't fun because of the nerdy stereotype.

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Date: July 23, 2004

You Can't Take It With You

Right so again I am late with the ol' journal entry. Well let's go back to last Friday the 16th of July. Friday afternoon I went to camp and we handed out certificates and finished out the camp with a game of football that was campers vs. counselors. I'm fairly sure I already included that in a journal somewhere but I think it is worth mentioning again because it was a fun day.

After all the hoohoo at camp I went back to the dorm and called up Lisa, my mother's friend, and found out where they were. It turned out they were at their hotel, The Mayflower, and relaxing. After getting direction which amounted to taking the Metro to Farragut West (I know I'm lazy) then walking maybe 2 blocks to 17th and Connecticut. When I got to their room I jumped on the bed and basked in the cool air. Then we walked to 18th and Connecticut and ate at the California Pizza Kitchen there, it was marvelous. After that we walked back to the dorm and they got the grand tour of my room. After we talked for a bit they decided they should go home so after plotting their course they headed back to the Mayflower.

After my mom and her friend left I went to see I Robot with Anthony and Al. Originally Christine was going to go but the 10:20 showing was sold out and the 11:30 was too late for her. After all this we ended up getting back around 1:00 and I collapsed. Then the next morning I got up bright and early to take my mother and Lisa around to see the sites. In the end we saw the Washington Monument, the World War II memorial, The Vietnam Memorial, and the Lincoln Memorial. After all that we took the metro to Dupont and ate at Bertucci's. After Lunch we came back by the dorm so I could drop off leftovers. Then we found out that the Smithsonian closes at 5:30 so we had missed that. So again we parted ways and they left to return to their hotel.

After not being able to reach them due to their AC being broken (they weren't in the room because it was hot). I headed out to dinner at Ruby Tuesday's with Al and Joe and KB. We ate and then went to Harris Teeter. By the time I got ahold of my mom again she was getting ready to go to bed and we decided on the plan for Sunday.

So Sunday rolls around and Lisa and my mother drop their bags off at my room and go to the Smithsonian. When they get back we jump on the Metro and head out to the airport. When we get there they check in and we eat at Friday's. Then they get in line and I head back to the dorm. I stop on the way at Pentagon City and do some grocery shopping and that's the weekend.

Monday I resumed camping, this time with an aeronautics camp. The first day they did a pre-test and just sort of passed the time until the end of camp. Tuesday they did some gravity work and had a short directed writing on it. Wednesday we did an activity, I don't remember what exactly.

Thursday though was practice for presentations and then the NASA tour. The practice went pretty well, especially for not having done it at all yet. The NASA tour was great, I loved the clean room. Friday I spent all day at camp and we went to the College Park Aviation Museum and made paper helicopters. That's where I'm going to cut this entry off so that the format is consistent for the next one.

What I've learned this week is that I like little kids better than middle schoolers. Elementary aged children tend to be a bit more disorganized but generally follow directions when they are given.

-Matt

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Date: July 16, 2004

I'm late, I'm late for a very important (up)date

Well it is Sunday and I am finally writing my journal. I blame it on the weather. Alright so last weekend is where I will start as is the norm. Last Friday I didn't do anything exciting, I stayed in and finished up my book. Then Saturday I had an adventure and headed out to Crystal City to explore. After I did that I stopped in Pentagon City and got quarters and some groceries. Then I did laundry. Sunday I dropped in on KB and we went to see King Arthur. I thought it was alright but no better than alright. The atmosphere of Union Station though was worth the trip. We saw a part of a confrontation between two women and a guy offered me the chance to see/meet the hottest woman in the world.

So Monday rolled around and I headed into ACP for the morning and out to camp in the afternoon. After getting a little work done I headed to camp where we made slime with sodium borate, water, and glue. After camp I was invited to meet some of the MRSEC people for quiz night at an Irish Pub called Fado. It was quite fun and we were fourth because there was a three way tie for first.

Tuesday I went into camp in the morning to provide support since Jeff was out working on his thesis. We discussed protective gear and watched a video before lunch. Lunch was exhausting. Corey's group came out and I played keep away rugby with the kids all during lunch. After lunch Joe and Kevin and I took the kids to the computer lab so that they could do research for their final projects. Then when camp was over I went to seminar.

Wednesday I again went to camp in the morning where we started off the day with the game two truths and a lie. Everything was going well until out of the blue a fight broke out between two of the children who were relatives. After the fight was broken up Jeff took both boys to the MRSEC office and called their parents. After Jeff got back we had a short discussion of the rules of the camp and then proceeded to the next activity where the kids investigated properties of different minerals. Then in the afternoon I went with Al, KB, Heather, Brett, and Christine to a Senate Hearing about stem cells. It was fairly interesting and the political motivations that I learned about later made the hearing make much more sense. I also ripped my pants or the corner of a marble ledge during the hearing.

Thursday I tried out my lesson at camp and found out that there are definitely things I have to learn about teaching kids. Now that I have had a couple days to think about it I feel better about it than I originally did. During lunch I headed back to ACP to go to the tour of NIST. The tour was fairly interesting; there was a lot of interesting equipment and technology at NIST, and a really big freight elevator.

Friday morning I was at ACP and worked on getting an estimate for the production of cones. Then at lunch time I went back to camp and watched the final presentations and then played some football with the kids before they had to go. It gave me a good feeling too when several of the kids stayed an extra 30 minutes to finish our counselors vs. campers game.

Well that s about all I did this week. Now what I learned this week was pretty simple. There is no easy way to teach. It seems like teaching has to adapt and be flexible for whoever you are teaching. That s really about it.

-Matt-

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Date: July 9, 2004

It's All Downhill From Here

I guess the title sort of makes it sound like everything is going to be bad from here on but it will be rather the contrary I would suppose. This weekend was the 4th of July. I was rather excited about being in the capitol with all the hype about the fireworks. Unfortunately I was a little disappointed because our line of sight was blocked by a large cloud of smoke produced from the fireworks exploding. I suppose for the sake of consistency I should start with the end of Friday and move through the week chronologically. Friday evening was rather unexciting except that I went and saw Spiderman 2 with Allison and Anthony. I thought it was a pretty good movie, entertaining at the very least. Saturday was unexciting as I am pretty sure I just hung around the dorm until the evening when I watched Monster with Al, Heather, and her boyfriend Ben. Sunday was slightly more exciting what with the rain and all. I ended up getting up relatively early and going with Al to Pentagon City to get quarters, the 4th Harry Potter book, and some groceries. I also gave in and bought an umbrella. After all the Pentagon City jazz Al and I caught the shuttle to Georgetown and saw Harry Potter 3. After the movie I hung out until the fireworks started which I have already stated were nice in the beginning but became less nice as the cloud of smoke grew in size and opacity.

Monday we had off, hurray! So what did I do? Nothing! That s not entirely true; I did go to Pentagon City with Al and KB. After the trip to PC (Pentagon City) I probably read some before going downstairs to see what was going on down there. In the end I ended up watching TV in Al's room. We watched all the great shows, For Love or Money and Who Wants To Marry My Dad? Then Tuesday rolled around and it was back to work. Tuesday morning I got a purchase req in for the Happy/Sad balls. It was also coincidentally the first day of my helping with the MRSEC summer camp. The first day of camp was certainly an eye opener. The kids had so much energy that it made me tired just watching them. Overall the kids seemed nice with just a couple who are sort of the troublemakers.

Wednesday morning I looked into writing up another purchase req for more sports balls for my lesson but I ended up learning that most of what I needed the MRSEC people already had. Wednesday afternoon in camp we played with liquid nitrogen which just seemed to make the kids more antsy and difficult to control. However, in the end both the counselors and the kids made it through the day unscathed.

Thursday is where my patience with the children was truly tried. Thursday was an all day field trip to a minor league baseball game. Let me tell you, taking kids in a van and getting them all relatively happy is not the easiest thing. Then we got to the game and all they seemed to do was complain about the heat. In the end we took them back early and let them hang out until their parents picked them up. This brings us to today. This morning I had a staff meeting with the other interns and some of the other people who work in education. That was interesting with everyone talking about what they were doing and the like. Then there was pizza for lunch which really made my day. Then it came time for me to go to the summer camp. I was honestly dreading seeing those kids again. However, I steeled myself and threw myself into the tempest and was pleasantly surprised. Today the children were energetic and bouncy and chaotic but they were all doing pretty much what they were supposed to and being good sports about it. That made me happy. After the camp Jeff took me to a Target and then was nice enough to bring me back to GWU so I didn't have to ride the Metro.

Speaking of Metro, I think that it was one of the things that made this week so hard. It really seemed like people on the metro were out to get me this week. People wouldn't even try to let me out and when I said excuse me they would just stare at me blankly. The worst part though was when I was at L Enfant Plaza and there was a solid wall of people outside the car. I went to exit and they all just stood there without letting people off. At that point I had no choice but to bull through people and say excuse me. Then I was cursed at and in a moment of anger I cursed right back at the person and walked on. I feel pretty bad about that now but at the time I was not pleased with the people.

As always I will wrap the week's journal entry up with what I have learned. This week I have learned that I don't like children in large groups. In small groups, no larger than 5, they are great. The children are intelligent and quick to grasp concepts. When they get in a group though it becomes insane, things just seem to break down in chaos. Overall though I think I will enjoy camp and will be happy about having done it. Over and out.

-Matt-

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Date: July 2, 2004

Saddam on Trial and Brando Dead

Time to begin the description of the week in hindsight. This past weekend was busy. To begin with on Saturday I did laundry, two loads I believe. Then Joe and KB and I trotted down to the Folklife Festival (I think we went on Saturday) where we ate watermelon and pineapple. We also wandered into what I believe was a christian craft fair sort of thing because there were tents and sections named after the 12 tribes and a large statue of Colossus with the head of gold and shoulders of silver and all that. After all of that myself and all of the rest of the guys and Allison went to Bertucci's for dinner. After that we came back and watched Zoolander. Following that I hung out with Joe, KB, Anthony, and Heather a bit more and went to bed. Sunday was a little less busy, I did another 3 loads of laundry and then went to Georgetown with Allison, KB and Joe. While we were down there we went to Barnes and Noble and I bought a couple books.

Now begins the week in review. Monday was a bit slow. I had some correspondence with Jeff, the guy running the summer camp I'm helping with and I also got some work done on my lesson worksheets. Tuesday was a little more exciting, I forgot my wallet on the way to the Metro and sort of freaked out. After that though the day settled down and Heather and I made it to MRSEC. MRSEC was fun, we made "silly putty" out of borax, glue and water which was fun. I can't wait to actually do it in camp. Wednesday I made another trip to MRSEC, this time to discuss more in depth my lesson and where it could fit in the summer camp curriculum. An annoying thing from Wednesday though was some data entry where the people didn't fill out the sheets right at all and left certain aspects ambiguous such as if they worked in groups. Thursday I finished entering the data from Wednesday into the computer and moved onto searching out prices on Happy/Sad balls. I even found a decent price of 2.75 a pair! . I also met with Gary to discuss my lesson and catch him up on what was going on. That brings us to today. Today I filled out a purchase requisition form for happy/sad balls and got my paycheck. I also got an email from the place I'm hoping to order the balls from and they tell me that they won't have a shipment of Happy/Sad balls in until the end of July. That definitely puts a kink in the works. I'll have to let Gary know about that and see what he wants to do.

The most important part of the update, what I've learned this week. Firstly, I've learned that D.C. is not a very big place. Metro stops are sometimes like 4 or 5 blocks apart. It is odd though how much farther you think it is because you are underground. I've also learned that time rushes by and if you don't do things in the now, you're not going to have enough time later.

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Date: June 25, 2004

Week 3 or 37.5% done

The weekend was fun. On Saturday all of us interns went and met Gary and Jack in front of the Smithsonian castle and discussed how their true to life scale model of the solar system is more than a little off. Then we went to the air and space museum and looked at the Wright exhibit and then went to the planetarium for the movie Infinity Express and to listen to a talk on stars and planets. After that we all went and had lunch which was extortionate. I mean I spent close to $8 on a McDonalds meal. It was $6.99 for a 10pc. Nugget meal. After lunch we all went and looked at the cosmology exhibit and then went our separate ways. I went to the natural history museum for a little bit and then headed back to GW where I think I played games for most of the rest of the day. Sunday was again rather unremarkable and I'm not sure what I did.

This week has been interesting at times and mind numbing at others. Let's begin with Monday. On Monday Heather and I did some last minute preparations for the CNSF event and worked out how we were going to get to the event. Other than that I also received an email from Jeff, one of the guys who I am helping with the summer camp. I also worked on sketching out some sort of lesson plan type thing for coefficient of restitution and friction. In addition I also worked a little bit more on the data from last year's SOCK.

Let's move on to Tuesday shall we? Alright so Tuesday brought on the CNSF event dun dun duh (dramatic music plays). So Heather and I get into work and sort of pass the time. I personally spent most of the time looking up what regulations exist for the bounciness of balls in various sports. Then around 10:00 a crisis arose because Allyson didn't know the password for the laptop we were taking so we took that to the helpdesk to have them change the password. Then the Helpdesk still has the computer at 10:35 so Allyson and I go to retrieve it. While we are up there we test the video loop and it turns out the person who burned the CD didn't put the actual data files on the CD so the player was unable to find the files. Having the loop not work of course resulted in people starting to worry about the event going smoothly and others getting testy because there was a deadline. Anyway, they said they would give the CD to one of the AIP people who were supposed to meet Heather and I at the event. So then Heather and I go and jump in the van and Richard drives us to the event.

Once we get there Heather and I drop off the stuff and return to GW for lunch, changing of clothes and a few moments of relaxation before having to head back. So around 4:00 Heather and I head back to Capitol Hill and as we are exiting the Metro it has begun pouring down rain and of course I didn't have an umbrella. Needless to say we were soaked through by the time we had walked the 2 blocks. So we get through security and slosh our way to the event room where we quickly set up our table. From that point on we had several important people drop by, a member of The House, the National Science Advisor to the President, and some of the high ups in the NSF to mention a few. By the end of the event I was exhausted from having been standing and the nervousness that had me wound tight.

Wednesday was the beginning of the frustrating problem of solid angles. Let me tell you, the concept is easy but some of the calculations are not. So all in all I spent most of Wednesday trying to compute the solid angle of a right circular one which in the end was quite simple after I determined my error. Wednesday evening a fellow physics major from Rhodes, Dustin, came down from Gaithersburg to hang out. Unfortunately we have had difficulty getting each other s calls so he got down to D.C. late and had an early flight so he left pretty early, around 9:45, after dropping Heather, Allison and I off at a lounge where we were meeting some of the grad students from MRSEC.

Thursday brought more annoyance from the solid angle problem. However I did have some good correspondence with my roommate Adam about the problem, it felt good to be discussing a problem and working through it with him. So I worked on that some and also on creating a more fleshed out lesson plan on bounciness. That brings us to today, Friday. Today has been alright, I finally figured out why my answer to the solid angle problem was not giving me the correct answer in the limit of a whole sphere. The problem lay in my assumption that I needed to think of the area of a dome as a sort of shrinking cylinder and thus take into account height of said cylinder. This, while seemingly a decent assumption was completely wrong, the height factor in fact does not matter in my treatment because all I am doing is summing circumferences and that depends on the angle existing from the vertical to the edge of the triangle created by tacking a 2D slice of the cone. Anyway, besides that I went to the lecture on chaos during lunch today that was given by Phil Schewe. I've also spent some time trying to locate alternate sources for IR cards as RadioShack says they are limited in quantity and hard to find. This has been week 3 or 37.5% with your host me, Matt Shanks, have a good day and I hope to see you all next week.

Oh wait wait wait, what would this journal be without the segment What have I learned this week? Well firstly I learned that important people are slippery, if you don't just go up and introduce yourself, by the time you look up again they will be gone. Unfortunately I missed getting to speak to a member of congress because I was too slow. I also learned always carry an umbrella. I mean as much as I like slogging about in wet shoes and clothes I think I'd like to skip that next time. Lastly I've learned that the solid angle of a right cone is given by 2*Pi*(1-cos[Theta]).

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Date: June 18, 2004

Week 2 (Another Dime Another Dollar)

To pick up where I left off, I'm going to begin this journal entry with the weekend. Saturday after sleeping in, Brett, Joe, Anthony and I all went traipsing about the various memorials and monuments. The first monument we saw was the Washington Monument. Then we continued on to the new WWII memorial, which was much larger than I thought it would be from the pictures I had seen. From there we walked to the Lincoln Memorial, took some pictures of the reflecting pool, and then went up to see old Honest Abe. After taking some pictures we walked over to the Korean War Memorial. The sculptures of the soldiers were very interesting. After that we all went to the Vietnam War Memorial and walked by the wall. From there we decided to go to the Smithsonian s Natural History Museum. While we were at the Smithsonian we also went and saw the 3D Imax movie about the T-Rex. After that we returned to Foggy Bottom.

I'm not entirely sure what I did on Sunday. I know I hung out with some of the interns and probably went somewhere, most likely Pentagon City.

Monday began week 2 of the internship. On Monday Heather and I had a couple of meetings about DBIS and the CNSF event. Tuesday was more CNSF stuff like binder making and a brief mock presentation where different people quizzed us on the different AIP programs. After all that Heather and I went to seminar at the University of Maryland. Wednesday was more CNSF stuff, finishing up binders and another mock presentation with more and other people. We also met with Gary to discuss SOCK data and the direction we need to take with the SOCK. Thursday was some data entry and organization. It also rained cats and dogs when Heather, KB and I left. Oh and I also discovered the hot chocolate. That brings us to today, Friday. Today I have worked more on the data from the SOCKs and discussed with Gary what we want to do with this data and the direction our investigation should take. Heather and I also met with Gary individually to discuss the different parts of the SOCK that we would be putting together.

Finally the "What have you learned this week" segment of the journal. This week the segment isn't so much about what I learned but rather how my faith in DC has been restored. Last week after suffering much annoyance at early closing times, the cost of things in DC, and the way people acted during rush hour on the Metro I was unhappy with the city. Yesterday however I witnessed several people during rush hour stop and help a blind woman and man into the subway car, tell them when it was their stop and then help them out of the car. Seeing the compassionate side of people renewed my faith in the city and renewed in me the feeling that most people are inherently good.

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Date: June 11, 2004

First Week (The Beginning)

Up to this point things have been going well. To begin with I got into town on Saturday June 5 at Reagan National Airport which coincidentally was also the day Reagan died, it sort of made me wonder what that meant for my internship. Anyway, after going all over campus lugging my luggage to get my key and access card I finally made it into Munson Hall and into my room. There I met Brett and after a brief getting acquainted chat we met Allison, KB and Christine. Then KB, Brett and I all went to TGI Fridays for dinner. Sunday brought the search for a Target and the meeting of Anthony, Heather and Joe.

Monday began with the 8 of us all going out to ACP and being oriented/inundated with all of the people and organizations that were housed there. After the morning Gary White took Heather, Christine, and I to MRSEC to become acquainted with those folks. After that Heather Christine and I came back to Munson.

Tuesday was the first seminar for Heather and I at MRSEC. I learned about the materials of sports summer camp I would be helping at and am pretty excited about working on that.

Wednesday Heather and I worked on data collection for the old SOCK and met more people. Most of the past week has been a whirl of meeting people and setting up meetings.

Thursday Heather and I had several meetings to help us learn about the programs we will be representing at the CNSF event up on Capitol Hill.

Friday (today) all of the interns had the day off for Reagan's funeral. Today has been pretty rainy and overcast and the amount of sirens and police cars and black unmarked vehicles driving down through Foggy Bottom has been amazing. More on all of the Reagan stuff later today.

Finally, Jack Hehn asked us to think about what we have learned each day while being here in D.C. To begin with I'd like to say that I have learned a lot about public transportation, at home I take having my own car for granted. I've also begun to appreciate just how much goes into physics education and the effort to get and keep people interested in not just physics but all of the natural sciences.

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