Week 5: Fancy Food and Fireworks

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Monday, July 11, 2016


Samantha Spytek

I have completed 5 weeks of being an SPS intern. That's 50,400 minutes or 3,024,000 seconds. This past week we made a lot of progress on our project, though it went a bit slower than we had hoped. However, we've found out that the website won't be up for us to add the finished lesson plans to for another two weeks anyway, so we've got plenty of time to finish. The work we're doing now with the lesson plans is very pedantic. We're making our second pass of them as a group, and a third pass of them overall. Most of the changes that are being made now are small formatting errors, such as odd font sizes or fixing extra spaces, as well as finding those small spelling and grammatical errors that take close reading to notice. Because of the minuteness of the mistakes, the time spent carefully reading is longer than before, since this is the final edit these lesson plans are receiving before being put up. However, we'd rather take the extra time and make sure we are producing a product with a high quality rather than rushing through it. Due to the time-consuming nature of this work, our personal projects have more or less been put on hold for the time being until we have enough of the lesson plans completely done to take a break. 

But last week wasn't all pedantic work. On Thursday the SPS interns went to Capitol Hill, to one of the office buildings for a women in STEM fair. There were two congressional women in attendance, and the entire event seemed to be mostly a show and tell for them to see what kinds of programs are out there that benefit women and girls in the STEM fields. This is good, because its important for politicians to know what kinds of programs exist and how they work so that they might endorse them in some way.

Women in STEM Fair AIP Table

Women in STEM Fair Setup

Women in STEM Fair Food

While I spent the majority of the event explaining the basics of spectroscopy to many adults and a few kids, some who were more enthusiastic than others to learn, I also was able to walk around myself and learn of some opportunities to be a mentor to younger girls interested in STEM. These types of programs in particular I find to be incredibly important because I know one of the main reasons I went into physics is that I had a large number of female scientist role models, from my mother to my science and math teachers to my freinds' parents. Women in STEM were so prevalent in my life that it wasn't until college that I realized that there was even still a problem in convincing girls that STEM is something that could be for them. For me growing up, gender was never even discussed - I was never given the pep talk of 'just because you're a girl doens't mean you can't like science'. I just assumed that whatever I liked to do would be ok - and it was. I realize now that my situation was ideal, and that in most of the rest of the country the equilibrium that that we seek does not yet exist (though it's getting much closer!). 

During this past weekend, Alexandria VA celebrated its 267th birthday with concerts, festivities and fireworks. I went to this with my roommate from college who was up visiting for the weekend, and we managed to get a few good pictures of the fireworks to share.



Also, if you ever have the opportunity to go to Old Town Alexandria, the place to eat is Gadsby's Tavern. Not only has it stood since before the revolution, but it was one of Washington's favorite dining locations (especially since his town home was just around the corner). The servers dress in colonial clothing and the food and beverages are all recipes that would have been served during the 1700s (including some of the beers - they are made from recipes that are known to have existed back then, one of which was created by Benjamin Franklin). To top it all off, it's haunted by the Female Stranger. It's definitely my favorite place to eat. 

Samantha Spytek