Week 7: Preparing for more outreach and NIST!

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Sunday, July 13, 2014


Mark Sellers

After the 4th of July, I stayed close to home, skyped with my family, and did laundry and such. Nothing too eventful!

This week, I started preparing for some upcoming outreach events at NIST and at the University of Maryland high school physics camp for girls. I had to solidify my understanding of the explanations so I could write a clear guide with appropriate and relevant questions. Kendra gave me some really good advice on how to avoid making big logic jumps in the explanations, which really helped a lot! After working with these explanations for so long, it gets harder and harder to take an outsider's perspective on what's really being said. More SOCK parts started coming in as well, so I started to organize those materials together and prepare them for the outreach events. For example, each of the middle school teachers received a set of large polarizers, so I had to make sure to cut strips of the polarizing film with the correct dimensions so they could be placed in transparency mounting frames.

Checking out one of NIST's high-resolution SEMs!The big day this week was Friday, when we did the NIST middle school science teacher outreach event, toured NIST, and went out to the Udvar-Hazy extension of the Air and Space Museum. For the NIST outreach event, Kearns and I worked with 22 middle school teachers (roughly half of them were from American Samoa and Hawaii) to show them some of the SOCK demonstrations. We started off doing the demo on polarized "stained glass", which got a very big wow! After that, we did our introduction to diffraction demonstration and then tested out our other demonstration on diffraction patterns. Both seemed to go over very well with the group! It was definitely good to work with the teachers and observe some of the sticking points of the demonstrations. For example, I learned I need to be very clear about the procedure for the basic diffraction demonstration (which involves making a single slit with pencils). It was also good to see how some of the materials in the diffraction pattern demonstration might need to be modified or stabilized in some way so they don't hinder the experience.

Discovery speaks for itself I think.Kearns and I joined in late to the NIST tour, where we got to see some very powerful SEMs (scanning electron microscopes) and walk past the NanoFab clean rooms. Afterwards, Kelby and Ben showed us their labs and talked about the work they did for NIST. The tour ended with Kendra taking the interns out to lunch at Dogfish Head, which was quite tasty!

Afterwards, Courtney drove myself, Kearns, and Simon out to Udvar-Hazy, where we got to see the Discovery space shuttle, in addition to some other sweet air-rides! Walking around the Discovery was definitely a humbling experience, since it really hit home how much effort went into designing, manufacturing, assembling, and finally flying the shuttle. I'm definitely eager for the next space age! (Mars, hopefully?)

Mark Sellers