Week 6: Goodbye NIST!

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Sunday, July 19, 2015


Shauna LeFebvre

My last week with the middle school teachers was fantastic!  We started off the week by presenting more of the SOCK demos.  Hannah and I taught the middles school teachers how to use Slinkys to explain the different properties and types of waves.  Then we showed them the “Sound at a Distance,” “Fun with Tuning Forks,” “The Speed of Sound,” and the “Boomwhackers” demos.  Just like last week, we were able to get some fantastic feedback on the SOCK.  Then we broke into groups and took tours of some of the labs at NIST.  This time I went to a lab that used SEM (scanning electron microscopy) imaging to learn more about concrete.  After lunch we took a tour of the Nanofab and SEM labs.  The work being done in these labs is amazing! Not only are they researching cutting edge technology, they can fit thousands, if not millions, of tiny components that go into our computers and cell phones on a four inch wafer. 

We spent Tuesday at NIST’s National Center for Neutron Research.  The teachers got to see some of the instrumentation used in current research areas of neutron scattering.  We went on a tour of the facilities, and they were amazing! The sheer size of everything was unbelievable.  Along with the tour the scientists at the research center presented lectures and demos for the teachers to use in the classroom. 

Wednesday started with a presentation by NIST’s statistical division.  They had the teachers measure the circumferences and diameters of different circular objects, like basketballs and bicycle tires, to determine the value of pi.  Not to brag, but my measurement of pi was accurate to the fourteenth decimal place.  Afterwards we went on a tour of the Capitol Building with the teachers.  After we saw the Capitol Building some of us got to meet the representatives and senators from our states.  It was such an honor to meet Senator Elizabeth Warren from Massachusetts, not just because I’m from Massachusetts, but because she took such an interest into what myself and the SURF (NIST’s Summer Undergraduate Research Fellowship) students were doing this summer.  It was such an amazing experience that could have only happened in DC!

On Thursday Veronica and Teresa led a tour around NIST for all of the interns.  I had a lot of fun, despite having seen some of the tour before from working with the middle school teachers.  Since I was touring with the interns this time, the presenters went a little more in depth with the concepts, especially because we could focus on just the physics.  The middle school teachers have to know a wide range of disciplines within science and can’t spend as much time on one subject.  In the afternoon we were able to attend a lecture by 1997 Physics Nobel Prize winner Bill Phillips. We ended the day by visiting the Newton Apple Tree.  It is an apple tree that is a direct descendent of the tree that (supposedly) dropped an apple on Sir Isaac’s head, leading to the discovery of gravity.  And the apples didn’t taste half bad either.

Friday started with some dry ice demonstrations with the teachers.  Then we ended the week and the Summer Institute for Middle School Teachers with ceremony and lunch with the presenters from the past two weeks.  It was bitter sweet.  I’ve had such a wonderful time with all the teachers. I have learned so much, not just from the NIST scientists, but the teachers as well.  I will miss spending time with the teachers, but I’m grateful for the time we did get to spend together.  I am also looking forward to the weeks I have left in DC.  I can’t wait to see what’s in store for me!     

Shauna LeFebvre