Week 3: Outreach and A Mysterious Blue Man

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Sunday, June 15, 2014


Simon Patane

This past week was full of unexpected adventures! On Saturday some of the interns returned to the National Mall to check out another museum - the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History. I could write an entry on this museum all by itself, but alas I want bring you along on all of the week's journeys. The highlight of my most recent Smithsonian quest was the live handling of insects! I have never held a praying mantis before...first time for everything! On Sunday I joined (almost) all of the other interns at a STEM outreach event, the "HoCo STEM Festival," hosted by Howard County Community College. It was a blast meeting a huge crowd of fellow volunteers, STEM educators, and presenters. SPS hosted a room where we held activities exploring gravity, light and LEDs, and introductory fluid mechanics with a smoke-ring cannon. Next to our demonstrations was Inside Science, another group operating within the American Institute of Physics, whose volunteers ran a science journalism activity with a green screen and projector. There were several fascinating booths including middle and high school students working on robots, drones, and model rockets! I can't begin to express my gratitude for the wonderful lunch and dinner provided for us that day - especially the dinner at Maiwand Kabob.

On Tuesday I was at the Rayburn House Office Building volunteering at the National User Facility Organization (NUFO) meeting in the foyer. I met many researchers and public outreach professionals from the various national labs and made a lot of great contacts - networking practice at its finest! Another dinner followed the NUFO meeting and the interns and NUFO scientists enjoyed a satisfying, non-stop, hour-long dinner. Many thanks to NUFO for covering our dinner costs!

My work at the Center for History of Physics is progressing nicely as well. This week I continued my reading odyssey and made significant headway into finishing up the source evaluation sheets for the mountain of books and articles the four of us have collected. By next week this step of the project should for the most part be done, but I anticipate that resources will intermittently dribble in as required by the research work. I am learning and discovering many hidden, historical gems. The narratives and activities that we are creating for teachers are coming together nicely as well. Moving forward, Jake, myself, and the two graduate research assistants are brainstorming ideas for lesson plans and themes for the project. What makes work into the history of science so important is the time spent and efforts poured into the basic background research. Realistically, teachers cannot always devote hours of their time to create the type of lesson plan that reflects a complete perspective - so the time the four of us spend doing this work is critical to the pedagogical process.

Topping off the week was the mysterious Blue Man! Stephen, one of the other interns, is working with the American Physical Society (upstairs from the Center for History of Physics) and participated on Thursday in one of their staff activities. I'll let the pictures speak for themselves, but the shuttle, metro, and walk back home from AIP was an absolutely hilarious time! We ran into several police officers on the metro who thankfully found the blue antics quite amusing.

Simon Patane