Week 3: Smithsonians, Cathedrals, and Zoom

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Saturday, June 18, 2022


Taylor Overcast

Week three is drawing to a close. Again, the week flew by, but this time it felt different. This week felt calmer in the best of ways – I feel like I am learning my role at AAPT, bonding to the other interns (my somewhat introverted self is less socially exhausted now), and becoming more familiar with the places, cultures, and people that DC has to offer. This past weekend I toured a couple of Smithsonians, witnessed a march for gun control, attended a service at the beautiful National Cathedral, and went to an art exhibit at American University. This work week was packed with zoom calls (about 25 hours worth) that were very informative. Most of the zoom calls were with a Python training for high school teachers that my mentor was a part of planning; however, I also had the opportunity to join a zoom call discussing quantum curriculum and how it can be made more available for K12 teachers. I am becoming more familiar with resources and challenges that teachers face and the issues and standards that need to be discussed and addressed.

The Smithsonians were incredible to walk through – I went to both the National Museum of American History and the Institution Archives. It was incredible to see American history in physical artifacts and the progression of the changes that have occurred over the years in our country. Saturday was also the day that the March for Our Lives Events occurred in DC. March for Our Lives is a student-led movement to end gun violence. Gun violence is a heart-breaking and multifaceted issue that needs to be spoken against – it was truly moving to see such a large crowd stand for their beliefs. 

On Sunday I attended a service at the National Cathedral with one of my fellow interns. I highly recommend, if given the opportunity, to do the same. The building is phenomenal – the architecture is so detailed and elegant and the service is an experience like few others. After attending the service, we made the trek to American University where we met the Czech artist Josef Achrer. Achrer’s exhibit is titled “The Quest for Tranquil Space: Paintings and Photograms.” The exhibit focuses on human society and its search for peace exhibited by colored abstract geometry pieces and black and white photograms. He described the techniques of his works and the stories behind them – I, personally, was taken by the stunning photograms. The works told a story that made you want to jump into the photo and experience the setting for yourself. It was fascinating to see his perspective on human’s natural desire for peace and the way he symbolized it in his paintings. 


This work week was much different than previous weeks. I had the opportunity to work on my research project for most of Monday. In addition, I had the opportunity to meet the Statistics Research team at ACP. Everyone was super helpful in giving me researching advice and data sets to consider. The data that I was hoping to be able to find is proving to be more difficult to locate/non-existent and I am nervously excited to see what that means for the remainder of my project. I think it strongly suggests that the correlation between low-income high school education and their opportunity/ability to attend a 4-year institution in a STEM major needs to be examined. From the data I have found, it seems there is an unproportional representation of these students. I also had the chance to have an email conversation with my high school physics teacher and hear her opinions and experiences teaching physics in a low-income school. Sadly, my high school’s physics program was (hopefully) temporarily discontinued last year. However, this seems to be the trend across the nation at the moment. Smaller schools are discontinuing their programs while larger schools are increasing their enrollment in physics courses. This is only expanding the opportunity gap and the issue needs to be addressed. However, it is a very systematic and intricate set of issues that are creating this divide, and it will not be easy to create a solution to lessen this gap.

For the remainder of the week, I participated in a virtual Python training that was headed by Dr. Brian Lane from the University of North Florida. It was hosted for high school physics teachers to learn methods to implement computational exercises in their classrooms. There were around 50 participants and it was an experience within itself to hear their various backgrounds and advice. I am very appreciative of Dr. Lane, the facilitators, and the other participants for enriching my knowledge of Python.


Also, when Einstein is on the wall, you take pictures with him!


Cheers to another good week!

Taylor Overcast