Week 1: Baptism by Fire

Share This:

Friday, June 12, 2015


Shauna LeFebvre

Hello again!

I got back into DC on Saturday.  I spent the day unpacking and settling into the apartment.  The real fun started on Sunday. Sunday was the HoCo STEM Fest at Howard County Community College.  A group of the interns took some demos from last year’s SOCK and set up a couple tables.  We taught the guests about fluorescence and the polarization of light.  The kids even got to make their own “stained glass” with tape, transparencies, and polarizing lenses.  We were also handing out our famous SPS diffraction glasses.  They must have been a hit because we ran out!

Monday was my first day at the office.  Hannah and I spent the day organizing the straw pan pipe demo Hannah came up with for the outreach event at Yorktown High School on Wednesday.  We even took a little time to write up some plans for other demos to put in the SOCK.  Tuesday was much of the same, with the addition of lunch with the new CEO of AIP and my first ever yoga class at the end of the day.

Wednesday was our busy day.  We got up early to get to Yorktown High School.  Hannah and I, along with AAPT intern Pat and SPS Education & Communications intern Kyle, made straw pan pipes with the honors physics classes there.  We used this activity to review the properties of waves with the juniors as well as teach them the relation between pitch, frequency, and wavelength.  This was as much a learning opportunity for us as it was for them.  Neither Hannah nor I had much experience teaching, so we learned how to adapt our lessons to the individual classes we were in front of.  We also got a lot of good feedback from the students and their teacher Mr. Schuetz about what works for the demo and what doesn’t.  After we finished our fourth class, we headed back to the office to celebrate Fred Dylla’s retirement from CEO of AIP.  It was fun watching all the skits the staff put together to show their appreciation for Fred’s work.  Hannah even got to jam out on her ukulele.  From there we went to Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Lab to attend IEEE’s Women in Photonics talks.  We got to see women who were early in their careers present their research.  This was important to me because there are not many women in physics (I know, you might not be able to tell by this year’s group of SPS interns).  It particularly helped me because I have been struggling with what I was going to do after I graduate Union.  I have been bouncing around between going to grad school in optics and getting a Masters in electrical engineering.  It was inspiring to see women with successful research in an area of physics that combines both of those interests.  I was even able to talk with one of the presenters afterwards.  It was amazing to get information on life after college and how to make the right decision for myself.

Thursday was a little more calm then the rest of the week, but not by much.  Hannah and I spent the day organizing demos for another outreach event we have on Monday at Tuckahoe Elementary. After getting lunch at Busboys and Poets, we went to the University of Maryland for a talk about how the Netherlands is dealing with the lack of female representation in physics.  The presenter was actually a lawyer from FOM (similar to the Netherlands’s version of AIP) who was working to increase the number of women at the institution.  It was interesting to see the different struggles they were having that the US doesn’t have, and vice versa.

Today we are looking forward to lunch with the Executive Committee of SPS.  Later on in the day we will also have dinner with them and go sightseeing.  I will make sure to write about that in my next post.  Until then, Hannah and I have to get ready for Tuckahoe.  See you next week!     

At the HoCo STEM Fest
A view through diffraction glasses
Fred Dylla's retirement party
Organizing demos for Tuckahoe Elementary
President Obama at the Congressional Baseball Game

Shauna LeFebvre