Week 5: Space and Politics!

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Tuesday, July 14, 2015


Brean Prefontaine

As I sit down to write this post, I realize that the summer is halfway over. This is very sad but if I do as much during the last half of the summer as I have the first half, then I am sure that I will be pretty busy. This weekend I actually headed up to Philadelphia in order to spend the fourth of July with Hendrik. Since there was no work on Friday (so happy to have a three day weekend) I was able to head back on Thursday night. We spend the first half of the day on Friday going to the Philadelphia zoo. The zoo actually had a lot more then what I had expected. Since the Philadelphia zoo seems small from the outside, I was expecting the zoo to be quite a bit smaller than the National Zoo in DC. However, there were actually many animals at the Philadelphia Zoo! Some of my favorites were the otters, polar bears, the king cobra, and the snow leopard in the “Great Cats” exhibit. The zoo also features tunnels that the animals can walk around in above the sidewalks. I was extremely happy to see a tiger use the tunnel and cross over us. I am still upset that I have not seen an orangutan swing across the orangutan crossing in the DC zoo. Oh well!

Hendrik and I also decided to go see Inside Out while I was in Philadelphia. Suprisingly the movie theater was full of mostly college aged people waiting for a Pixar film. However, I loved this movie! The characters were all really cute and there were plenty of jokes that “adults” would appreciate! Everyone should watch Inside Out!! The rest of the Friday was spent relaxing.

Saturday was the Fourth of July! Last year I found out that Philadelphia hosts a festival on the parkway for the Fourth of July. So, this year Hendrik and I ventured over to the art museum area to check out the festival right around lunch time. We walked around all of the booths, gathered up some free Coca-Cola and Wawa iced tea, and found some Jamaican food for lunch. Even though it was lightly raining, the parkway was crowded with people. The festival was a lot of fun (and of course I spilled food all over the shirt during lunch). A festival would not be complete without “festival food” and so we found some fried oreos and sat down to enjoy our deliciou find. later that night, Hendrik and I took blanket over to Drexel park and waited for the fireworks. They happened to be an hour late but they were worth it. Luckily the sky had cleared up a bit by that time and we were able to see the huge fireworks over the Philadelphia Art Museum. I would say that Fourth of July weekend was a success! On Sunday it was time for me to head back to DC.

There was so much to look forward to this week! Monday was the first day that Dr. Good was around after his trip to Prague. It was great to see him and sit down with everyone for a meeting about our project. In two weeks multiple teachers will be coming to College Park in order to visit the history center at AIP. So this means that most of our time has been spent preparing materials to present to them. The main focus for the teachers’ visit is to gain feedback on our lesson plans and activities that we had been developing throughout this summer so that we can improve on these items before the end of the summer. This means that we have continued to work on converting the lesson plans to a 5E format and we also been working on developing games that cover the topics of women and African Americans in physics. The idea is that we can post these games online and teachers can download and make the cards for the students so that the games can be played in the classroom. Connor has been working on developing a game called “Phystory” (based on “Chronology”) that the interns started working on last year. In this game there are cards with clues and dates on them. Everyone starts out with one or two cards and then they have to say where the following cards go in relation to the cards that are already on their table (it is like creating a timeline out of cards). I have also been working on creating a physics version of “Heads Up” where players will hold a card up to their forehead and guess which physicists they are based upon the clues given by the other players.

Other than working on my project, there were many SPS intern activities planned for this week. On Tuesday all of the interns went to NASA Goddard to tour where Rachel and max work. This was a great day! We started off the morning with a visit to the lab where Max worked. His mentor explained all about their project and what sort of instruments they were trying to build. Then we went upstairs and saw Rachel’s office (most of her work in computational so she just explained her project to us). After this, we were able to sit down with Group picture at NASA GoddardDr. John Mather and talk more about his journey through physics and his work at NASA. He is currently in charge of the James Webb Space Telescope project and he told us a little about the process that NASA was going through to build this telescope. Later in the day we were able to go see the cleanroom where the telescope is being assembled. Another highlight of the day was also visiting the building that housed everything related to the Hubble Space Telescope. This was very neat and I enjoyed seeing some of the parts that they had replaced on Hubble and now have on display. There was also a display of tools used by astronauts during the maintenance missions that services Hubble. Overall it was a great day at NASA Goddard and left feeling inspired to continue on with physics (which is never a bad thing!).

On Wednesday we had another big day. The Department of Energy was hosting a National Lab exhibit day in the Cannon (House of Standing on stairs in the Cannon buildingRepresentatives) building for various political officials. The main idea behind this event was to show congressmen and women what the Department of Energy has been working on and why funding is important. Anyway, there was an opportunity for us to volunteer our day to helping out at the event. So, myself and some of the other interns that work in ACP headed down to Capitol Hill to volunteer at this event. As it turns out, there was not much that they needed help with besides registration. We ended up sitting at tables outside of the event and asking people to sign in, trying to answer any questions that people had about the event, and simply talking to some people involved in the event. However, we were also able to explore some of the House of Representative buildings, eat at a really good cafeteria, and even talk to some of the people from the National labs that were at the event.

The rest of the week did not contain anymore space trips or political functions, but I was able to explore more of the food options that DC has to offer. One day after work, Connor and I decided to head to Georgetown and get cupcakes from Baked and Wired (apparently this place has the best cupcakes). I so thoroughly surprised to see a line out of the door at a cupcake shop, but it was worth the wait. I bought a cupcake called The Smurfette (it was lemon cake with blueberries in it with lemon frosting) and a passion fruit iced tea (which was very delicious!). I thought that all of this hype about cupcakes with DC people was crazy, but if you are in the area then I definitely Cupcake and iced tea from Baked and Wired in Georgetownrecommend to go to Baked and Wired for a treat! I also went out to dinner with Aman another day after work. We had decided to head over to Columbia Heights (the neighborhood where the Target is) and wander around until we found something. While we were walking, we found this street full of little restaurants that all looked so good! Since we had both not tried Dominican food before, we decided that we would go to “Los Hermanos” a dominican restaurant. I have discovered that usually when a restaurant does not have prices on the menu it is a bad sign. However, this placed allowed you to create a plate of food with whatever you wanted for only $10! It was very exciting and the food was delicious! I had rice and beans, plantains, chicken, and beef. I definitely want to go back before the summer is over and now I know that Dominican food is delicious!

While this was a very busy week, I was glad to discover a little more of what DC and Maryland has to offer. I could not have asked for a better week! Until next time...


Being silly at Capitol Hill
Scaled model of the Hubble Space Telescope at NASA Goddard
Clean room for the James Webb Space Telescope
Testing area for instruments that will be on the James Webb Space Telescope
In another part of the building that houses the James Webb Space Telescope
National Lab Day in the Cannon building

Brean Prefontaine