Week 4: Phun with Physics Phriends!

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Friday, June 19, 2015


Hannah Pell

Finally after a long but successful third week, we had a chance to celebrate… with the SPS Executive Committee! Friday after work we all hopped on the metro and travelled to Clyde’s in the Chinatown/Gallery Place area.  It was really nice to have the opportunity to reconnect with the other SPS interns as well as getting to know the committee.  Plus, an incredible three-course meal. More free food. What could be better? ;)

Bright and early on Monday morning, I and the other ACP interns were on our way to Tuckahoe Elementary School in Arlington.  We mentally prepared for the task of engaging in physics with approximately 120 third-graders with our necessary dosage of coffee (definitely passed on my usual non-decaf that day).  Upon arriving, we received a warm and exciting welcome from the staff, quickly labelled as the “Physics Phriends” for the day! :)

Shauna and I decided to organize the outreach event into three stations to allow us to test more of our demo ideas and give the kids a more hand-on science experience.  Brean and I ran the “Fun with Tuning Forks” station, talking about what they are, how they work, and how we can use them to learn about physics!  I demonstrated the classic finding-the-speed-of-sound lab, exploiting the resonance of the standing wave inside the tube to find the fundamental frequency.  Shauna and Connor ran the “Sound at a Distance” station.  Shauna organized activities using straws, cups and strings, and even one of those awesome swinging crazy tubes to demonstrate how we create noise and use sound to communicate.  Pat and Kyle ran the last stand exploring acoustical properties of two different instruments: Boomwhackers® and Pan Pipes! And yes, every single kid got their own set of Pan Pipes to take home; it is incredibly important to me that children have access to both education and music, so I was determined to share both with them that morning. I think it fared quite well. And as I mentioned before, kids are wonderful scientists.

The rest of this week was about sitting down and spending time at the computer: writing, brainstorming, and getting organized.  After the high school and elementary school outreach events, we have decided to include “Outreach Reflections” in the manual, providing insight on what went well, what didn’t, and ultimately what we learned from working with the students.  We hope that our advice will help aid SPS chapters in the future!  I’ve certainly seen that every outreach event is different, and it is so important to be prepared, enthusiastic, and versatile.  

Physics!As of now, we have eight main exercises planned for the SOCK, a combination of interactive demos, laboratory, and hands-on activities.  We hope to have the first complete draft of the manual finished by the end of the month! *fingers crossed* I have learned so much from this experience so far, and not just about physics.  My experiences here in D.C. and at ACP, particularly the connections I’m making and the people I have the pleasure to work with, are literally changing my life.  I feel much more confident in myself and the things that truly make me happy, and this internship has already given me the ambition and drive to pursue them. But I can’t forget about a little bit of fun thrown in there too. 

Hannah Pell