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2006 SPS National Interns
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Jacki Michalek
Jackie Michalek
California University of Pennsylvania, PA

Internship: SPS Outreach/ComPADRE/AAPT Physics Olympiad
Online Journal
Week of August 4, 2006 Week of July 14, 2006 Week of June 23, 2006
Week of July 28, 2006 Week of July 7, 2006 Week of June 16, 2006
Week of July 21, 2006 Week of June 30, 2006 Week of June 9, 2006
Week of August 4, 2006

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Week of July 28, 2006
I feel rejuvenated! The AAPT Annual Meeting in Syracuse, NY, was just the shot in the arm that I needed. The hellish travel was eclipsed by the invaluable impact this experience has had on me. The workshops I attended offered information that I can use in the classroom when I teach: Cognitive Research, Building Pedagogical Content, SPS Poster Session, Engaging the Community, PIRA Underground. Great real-life application stuff! And the Women in Physics meeting was super encouraging and supportive. Truly a confidence-builder. The Demo Show was excellent. I hope I am that engaging for my future students. But, the highlight was hearing Dr. Jocelyn Bell Burnell speak on pulsars. I was honored to even be in her presence she is such an important pioneer and a great role-model for me. And, Jack was good enough to introduce us and take our picture! You re a peach, Jack! However, I am now renaming Syracuse to Stairacuse, as there are exactly 124 steps up to our dorm! Ugh I need a calf massage.

Thank you to SPS Dr. Gary White and Dr. Jack Hehn for showing me around, eating a meal with me and introducing me to all of the wonderful people and future colleagues. And thank you to AAPT for putting on this shindig. Fabulous!

Back to work on Wednesday. I came home a day early from the conference because of my deadlines. This is our last, official work-week, and I want to complete all of my projects. The SOCKs website preliminary version is done and I submitted it for final editing. Not bad, considering I haven t been working on it that long due to the Syracuse Meeting.

At AAPT, I am almost completely done with all of my deadlines met. I am just missing one answer key to a 1991 physics examination. But Dr. Hein and I will get together on Monday (when he gets back into town) to finalize everything. In the interim, we will both be taking the test to create an answer key. I wonder who will get the higher score. hmmmmm duh!

This weekend is absolutely packed with travel, switching vehicles, a birthday party, study for my Praxis II, doctor's appointment and, of course, getting ready for Monday's Final Presentation Practice Run. Fingers-crossed that I get it all done! It will be nice to see my husband if he remembers me—I haven't been able to get home for 4 weeks!

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Week of July 21, 2006
Seventh Week:  I never thought I would say that I MISS PENNSYLVANIA WEATHER!  It has always been a well-known fact that Pittsburgh has more cloudy days than Seattle.  But, I would give anything for those clouds at this point.  First, we have rain, thunder, lightening (beautiful, but terrifying), floods….now, we have 99 degree weather with a 108 heat index.  And exhausting humidity!  Everyone in DC looks like they just stepped out of a shower.  The deodorant companies must make a fortune here!

My son and his girlfriend came to visit me over the weekend, and oooohhhh, was it nice to see someone from home!  Then, I proceeded to run their butts off sight-seeing.  I took them to see:  Arlington National Cemetery, the changing of the guard at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldiers, Iwo Jima, Lincoln Memorial, Vietnam Wall, Reflecting Pool, Korean Memorial, Einstein’s Statue, Washington Monument (up to the top and back down again), Botanical Gardens, the White House, and the Capitol….all in one day!  We laughed all day and took a ton of pictures.  They say that the parking is free here in DC on weekends.  But, I found out that it is actually $75 by the fire hydrants (haha).  They camouflage their fire hydrants here by painting them green, hiding them behind street planters, and then they have the nerve to give you a parking ticket!  We survived the trauma of a ticket, and enjoyed the rest of our day.  I haven’t had a rocket-pop (popsicle) in about 30 years, and it was so refreshing.  Then I took them out to a nice dinner, after which, they promptly showered and collapsed.  It was a real treat to have them here and I wish they could have stayed longer – but, duty calls.

I have been busy wrapping up my projects at AAPT.  I developed the CD case covers, created hard-copy Master Files for all the information, and completed the final testing of the TestBurn CD’s.  I am just waiting on the go-ahead for making the final Master CD’s, then I think my time here is about done.  Working with everyone here has been so helpful, pleasant and really enjoyable.  I hope they feel the same way about working with me!  We’ve had a ton of laughs, too. 

For the SOCKs project, I’ve spent the week getting ready for the Syracuse University Meeting this weekend and working on the SOCKs User Guide. 
In April, I had setup a Capitol tour through Senator Rick Santorum’s office for our group.  Our tour was scheduled for Thursday – 20th July – and it was fabulous.  Everyone should see our Nation’s Capitol Building….the architecture, beauty and history are truly grand.  I liked our tour guide’s ‘little-known-facts’ stories about some of the interpersonal political relationships of our Founding Fathers.  And Sen. Santorum was very nice and accommodating while we were there.  He posed for pictures with our group (which he will mail to us) and held an informal question/answer session.  I had a great time.

More later….

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Week of July 14, 2006
Another week in the big city, and this brought tons of HIGH humidity. Once in a while, there was a quickie thunderstorm to break things up, but mostly it was just hot and sometimes hard to breathe (the air was so heavy).

I finished my preliminary testing at AAPT for the Physics Bowl, Physics Olympiad and the High School Examinations CD. All of the information is gathered and I burned the test CDs. Everything is working fine, now that I found an undocumented bug in MSPowerPoint. It only took me several days AND nights (the ole pit bull analyst came out in me again!) of analyzing and attacking the bug. But, it all works now and, I think it looks pretty cool so I'm happy. I shared the information with a good friend who is a Senior Analyst at the Software Engineering Institute (Carnegie Mellon University). He was quite appreciative, as he has often run into this problem before and could never resolve the issue.

I completed the final version of the SOCK poster to be presented at AAPT's Syracuse University meeting next Sunday, also. This week, I'll just make any changes based on suggestions from others that are involved, print it, laminate it, and get it ready for travel this weekend. Next up, assist on the input of the SOCKs User Guide. I am also quite busy working on my Final Presentation and trying to study for my Praxis II. I take them about 3 days after I return home to PA.

My son and his girlfriend are coming to visit me this weekend and I can't wait! They are to arrive on Saturday evening, then I have the whole day planned for sight-seeing on Sunday. It will be so much fun having them in my dorm and hanging out with them. I hope they enjoy my little customized tours that I've set up for them. Then, next week, I will finally get the chance to meet up with some old friends and colleagues from my DARPA/Pentagon days. It will be so great to see them and catch up on old times! Stay cool and stay tuned for more next week.

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Week of July 7, 2006
Happy 4th of July! This was a short work-week. AIP was closed Monday and Tuesday, due to the holiday, so I had a little vacation. I went home to PA to celebrate the 4th with my family. It was nice having an extra day with them. I made sure I was back in DC by Tuesday morning by 9:00 am. I avoided all the holiday traffic that way and was still able to celebrate the actual 4th in the Capitol. About four of us interns went to our roof to watch the fireworks over the Washington Monument What a view! They were beautiful!

On Thursday afternoon, Liz received a call from George Washington University regarding my apartment. Apparently, there was some water damage on the floor above me and the floor below me due to all of the rain here in DC. My apartment was fine, at the moment, but they needed me to move out so they could tear down my wall and look at the pipes. They gave me about 5 hours to move ALL of my stuff. And I have a lot of stuff! I tried carrying several loads in my arms on the street and that just wasn't going to work with the short timeframe. So, I got my car out of the garage and started loading. Many thanks to Andy and Bill who helped me move all of the boxes to my car. But, a special, heart-felt thank-you-medal-of-honor goes to Ann who, not only carried boxes to my car, but also went with me to the new place and helped unload! I don't know what I would have done without you guys! I owe you a watermelon.

Liz and her husband Jim hosted a soiree at their house for all the interns on Friday night. Ummmm the jumbalaya was to die for. And the cookout was pretty good, too. That was so nice of them to let us invade their home and yard a great time was had by all! Nobody left hungry. It was a very nice to sit, relax and visit with everyone. Wish we had time to do this more often.

My projects for AAPT are right on schedule. I am ready to start a test run on the burning of the CD's next week for the three different areas (HS Exams, PhysicsBowl and Physics Olympiad). Fingers-crossed ... The SOCKS project is a little hectic for SPS, but Katherine is doing great getting our prototypes ordered and the UserGuide underway. I am still working on the SOCK poster for the Syracuse University AAPT meeting coming up on July 22. I also get to test the prototypes when they arrive in the mail. Basically, this means I get to play with them to see if they would be engaging for our SOCK this year. I like the hand-boilers the best so far. Although, the thermo-paper is pretty cool, too. Stay tuned.

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Week of June 30, 2006

What is it about Monday and rain in the DC area? Actually, this week was an all-out flood. Sunday's traffic and road conditions were a bear to get through, but I finally made it safely to my dorm. It was weird, though, the whole time I was trying to concentrate on driving safely, I could not stop thinking - - - where do all of DC's homeless go in the storms. And my heart felt heavy. Because of the extreme weather, I worked from my dorm on Tuesday. It was quiet and lonely, but I managed to get so much done! After about 14 hours, however, I needed a break. So, a few of us went out for drinks at a neighborhood pub. It was a lot of fun getting to know my fellow interns better and have a some good laughs.

AAPT work is moving along nicely, and I am almost ready to start burning the CDs. I am also learning some great physics along the way because I have to go through each physics exam one at a time to verify my conversions. It's a little time-consuming, but I completed them all this week. And I absolutely love the people I work with they are very sincere and positive about their work. Dr. Hein, Janet, Annette, Fran, MariaElaina you guys make my workday go faster.

Things are going great at SPS, too. I completed my abstract for a poster we are presenting at the AAPT Syracuse meeting in July. Now, I just have to complete the poster itself. And Katherine and I are making good progress on this year's SOCK (Absolute Zero and the Conquest of Cold theme) Many thanks to Gary, Liz, Doug and Stephanie for always providing answers to my questions!

Andy told me about the fruit/vegetable open market in the square by our dorms on Wednesday night. We walked over and everything looked so tasty! I will make sure to buy some fresh veggies next week. I plan on going home for the holiday because we have next Monday and Tuesday off work. I can't wait to hear birds. Mostly what I hear are sirens because the dorms are right next to the hospital. Stay tuned ..more next week! And have a happy 4th of July!

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Week of June 23, 2006
Another rainy Monday in DC unfortunately, the thunderstorm let loose during the ACP Annual Picnic. The picnic was a bona fide success despite the weather. The demos and hands-on exhibits were engaging, and the attendees (adults and children alike) seemed excited and interested. I think their favorite was the nitrogen-oxide ice cream we made them eat!

I went to Fairfax to visit a friend from my old days in government contracts. It was really great spending time with her, and getting out of the city for a little bit, and the Chinese food was out of this world!

Katherine, Ann, Erin, Gary and I visited Tuckahoe Elementary School. We gave temperature demonstrations to a class of third and fourth graders. The highlight was the liquid nitrogen ice cream that Katherine and Erin made for them. I think they loved watching the making of it more than eating it with all the smoke! The kids were cute and very smart for their age. You could almost see their wheels turning as they were totally enthralled with our demos. It was really nice of the school and the teachers to give us the opportunity to experience a classroom setting with the yungins. After, Gary and his wife took us to lunch at the Elevation Burger. Thank you, thank you! Best cheeseburgers this side of the Mississippi but, I'm not losing very much weight since I arrived in DC.

Work is going good. It is nice to be busy and productive. And, to get a break from exams! Dr. Khoury treated AAPT to an ice cream treat on the terrace on Wednesday afternoon. These people are the sweetest (no pun intended)! I have been making good progress on my software CDs for AAPT, and Katherine and I have been developing an outline for the SOCK. I also have been working on an abstract for a poster for the AAPT Syracuse Meeting in July, so sometimes it feels a little hectic. Also, I started studying at nights for my Praxis II tests. I take them on August 5th when I get home.

This week, I actually got enough time and energy to walk down and see the Lincoln Memorial, the Washington Monument and the Capitol Building at night. Truly beautiful! Even in this high humidity. I am going home this weekend and can't wait to see my family. But, I am looking forward to the new challenges and experiences next week!

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Week of June 16, 2006

Rainy days and Mondays... and a two-hour commute. Actually, the drive is only about 28 minutes. But, it was my first time driving and a police officer sent me to Bethesda by mistake. Once I finally found my way around, things definitely improved.

I am making great progress on my projects for AAPT. I am creating CDs that they will be able to market online. Its fun and gives me a chance to be creative when designing the menus. I just hope my idea of creativity matches theirs! In the afternoon, I work with Katherine on SOCKS. We have been having a blast trying to brainstorm for our project. Everyone I work with is so helpful, and they keep feeding me! So much for losing weight (but, I'm not complaining) Liz even brought out the griddle and created homemade chocolate crepes one afternoon yum!

Tuesday was a super nostalgic day. My youngest son, Tyler, left for the Marine Corps. I am so proud of him but wished I were home to see him off from our driveway. I know he'll do well in whatever he chooses, though. (sniffle-sniffle)

On Wednesday, Dr. Warren Hein held a pizza lunch for we interns in the AIP building (4 of us: Erin, Ann, Katherine and myself). Dr. John Layman and Dr. Jack Hehn joined us also and we had an interesting/informative conversation regarding physics education. I made mental notes of all of their good advice.

Thursday, the PhysTec Advisory Committee meeting was held here in the building and I met Dr. George Trilling (Berkley). He taught my professor who now teaches me at CalU! Now I know where my great education comes from and, I am always amazed at just how small the physics world is. But, what an honor! It is so cool to be here and exposed to everything physics. I feel like we are at the center of all the neat physics happenings. And, I am just in awe of the physicists that I am getting to meet and chat with about physics education.

Meanwhile, back at the dorms... I bought some toys and we all created a toybox. We have a frisbee, velcro paddles, horseshoes, badminton and jai lai (all plastic, of course). Now, we can go out and play in the parks or in the halls when it is raining. I know we will be adding to it as time goes on... maybe we'll bequeath our toybox to next year's interns.

Well, I made it one whole week without a violation from the dorm-police. We interns now have a tradition we have a family dinner one night every weekend. Everyone brings something and we put all our kitchen tables and chairs in one room for our 11-course meal. We are all on our best behavior (well, most of us- haha) and it's a nice way to catch up with each other and relax together. Ann is baking her famous apple pies. I am bringing my homemade lasagne this Saturday. I'll let you know if they survive.

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Week of June 9, 2006
Whew. The first week is finally over! I drove to DC, so of course I packed more stuff than what I will probably need (and didn't think about getting it all to the 7th floor of the dorms until it was too late!) I was very anxious to meet everyone and start on my projects. The projects I am assigned are super interesting and I know I will be learning so much. I just hope I can contribute as much as I'll be taking away.

The people are all very nice and I look forward to working with them and getting to know them better. Hopefully, my age won t be a big obstacle from others perception (I know I don t have a problem with it), and we can all plan lunches, dinners, tours and other outings. I am also excited about exploring the nightlife a little more next week. Maybe, some of my home-sickness will have worn off by then. I should be settled in a good, productive routine and probably won t be so tired either. But, I have to be careful about the dorm-police I was cited this week for having a Glade candle (with a lid) in my bathroom. Apparently, they check our dorms while we re at work but, I'm not paranoid (hahaha!).

Orientation was a fun way to become acclimated here at AIP there was so much information! Many thanx to all who took part in the planning and presentation of that first day! We all attended the CNSF on Capitol Hill this week wow what a nice opportunity to network, see what others are doing in the science fields, and offer them SPS/AIP/AAPT information. The food and drink weren't bad either!

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