Week 2: SOCK It to Me

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Thursday, June 4, 2015


Hannah Pell

SPS InternsOur first weekend in the city was a blast.  We all headed out to dinner Friday night for some ramen and shared stories from our first week and quite a few laughs.  After exploring the Adams Morgan area for a few hours (which was pretty hoppin’ that night), we decided to head back to Woodley.  The next day a few of us Metro’d to the National Air and Space Museum on the National Mall.  And let me tell you… I could not have been more excited.  I felt so incredibly lost (both literally and mentally) in the excitement of exploring the wonders of space travel and our universe for hours on end.  Eventually we headed out, stopped at the White House for a quick peak, and then returned to the apartment.

As I mentioned, my project for the summer is the SOCK (Science Outreach Catalyst Kit).  The kits began in 2001 and are a yearly product of Society of Physics Students interns and staff.  The SOCK is designed to be used by SPS chapters across the nation for science outreach events to local elementary, middle, and high schools.  It is full of exploratory introductory physics demonstrations and activities based around a particular theme or topic.  I’ve had a great time so far getting creative and educational with science!  My primary goals for this second week were all about formal activity write-ups for the SOCK manual, as well as preparing for the upcoming HOCO STEM Festival and a visit to a high school physics class.  So much outreach, so little time!

 I spent most of the week completing formal write-ups for a wave demonstration and an activity for the Straw Pan Pipes I made last week.  After some tweaking, I got good measurements down so that they’re more in tune, went on a few errands to collect/experiment with new supplies, and… voila!  Now I’m just hoping that the high schoolers have some scientific (and musical) fun with them!  For the HOCO STEM Festival, Shauna and I (along with a large number of the other interns) will be leading demos from the 2014 SOCK “Light: A Spectrum of Utility,” specifically focused on fluorescence and polarization. 

On Monday, the American Institute of Physics welcomed a new CEO, Dr. Robert Brown.  We all met in the large conference room for introductions and a Q&A session.  Upon learning of his professional music career, I just had to ask him: “How have your experiences in music as well as the lessons you learned from them contributed to your scientific skills and leadership philosophy for AIP?” (This was in front of a room full of my mentors, bosses, managers and the like.)  He began to talk of the metaphor between the role of an orchestral conductor like that of a CEO of a company, and I couldn’t help but smile.  I was fortunate enough to meet with him after the shindig and talk for a while about music and physics.  I was honest about my current conundrum: Should I continue with physics or music? And he gave me some of the best advice I had yet to receive: follow what your heart is telling you.  The environment in the ACP is so welcoming and caring, and it’s wonderful to be able to feel that only two weeks in.

This week has been full of getting organized and accustomed to AIP (as well as an unusual number of parties and free food!).  I already feel like my time here is flying by!  I can only predict that each week will continue to be more exciting than the last.  I just hope that all goes well with my first big outreach events for the summer, and that the students take away some cool bits of physics.

Hannah Pell