Week 8: Game Testing

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Friday, July 17, 2015


Connor Day

I welcomed a relaxing weekend after our busy week at NASA and the Hill last week. On Saturday, I explored the Georgetown area with a few of my friends and fellow interns, inspired by our quick trip over there last Monday for cupcakes. We spent a few hours browsing the many shops and restaurants and stopped for Sushi boatchips, salsa, and margaritas at El Centro that evening. I spent most of Sunday job searching, but I did leave the apartment for all-you-can-eat sushi with Drew and Max. I managed to snag a picture of our sushi boat this time before it was destroyed.

Our teachers arrive for the history workshop next week, so most of this week was used to finish up planning and preparations for them. On Monday, we were able to try out Phystory and Heads Up with our mentor Greg, and we had a lot of fun! Later in the week, we enlisted a couple other of the interns to try the games to see if they are enjoyable to people outside the history center. Pat really enjoyed them even though he kept losing… Nevertheless, this was good confirmation that these games could be a hit in classrooms too! Greg also brought in his copy of Chronology, the game that Phystory is based on. I was much worse at this game; my history knowledge is terrible outside of the history of physics. I adapted the rules of Chronology to write out a gameplay guide for Phystory. I also worked on polishing the women in astronomy lesson plan that I have neglected these past couple weeks in developing the card games. I prepared a skeleton of a role-playing activity that we will try out with the teachers. I have never participated this type of activity in a classroom, so I hope that the teachers that arrive will be able to provide some ideas and insight to develop this activity and lesson further.

ArtAman went to Target and bought crayons early this week (unfortunately not the 64 pack with the sharpener, just a 24 pack) so that we could use our coloring books that we picked up from her mentor in APS outreach during the ACP tour last month. I have spent almost every day at lunch this week coloring physicists! I let Brean color Copernicus because he is her favorite. I colored Galileo, Newton, Marie Curie, and Fermi. Kendra, the current SPS Programs Manager, worked on developing this coloring book when she interned with APS outreach. She was excited that we were enjoying it!

On Wednesday evening, the SPS gang traveled to Tracy’s house (the SPS Communication Manager) for a round table dinner regarding the Society’s usage of social media. We enjoyed pizza, playing with Kendra’s sons Ben and Connor, and a productive discussion that produced some new ideas and directions for the SPS team.

Giant ion microscope at NISTThursday brought our intern tour of NIST, led by Veronica and Teresa. The day began with meeting their mentor, Dr. John Suehle, and visiting their lab in which they have been working on a sensor for biomolecules. Even though their mentor called himself an engineer, he was very knowledgeable of the physics behind his work and spoke quite a bit about the importance of the intersection of biology and physics. We visited a couple other labs at NIST that morning, one that features three-dimensional microscopy and another that focuses on defining SI length measurements (basically defining the meter). In the afternoon, we crashed a talk for NIST undergraduate fellows from Dr. William D. Phillips, a Nobel laureate for his work in developing laser cooling. His presentation was very Bill Nye-esque: humorous and engaging for young scientists. He explained the usage of liquid nitrogen as a coolant, and dumped quite a bit of it directly on the floor. It was both an informative and entertaining talk!

Our final major stop of the day was the NIST Center for Neutron Research. The building contains a huge network of neutron accelerators and many instruments attached to the beams for experimentation and research. Two instruments that were featured on our tour were the PBR (the polarized bean reflectometer, not the beer) and the giant 30 meter purple SANS (small angle neutron scattering) instrument. It’s always funny how the smaller the thing is you are trying to study, the larger the instruments are to study it.Purple neutron scattering tube!

On our way back home, we stopped for a visit at an apple tree on the NIST campus that claims to be a descendent of the tree that sparked Newton’s understanding of gravity. Most of us tried the little green apples on the tree, but they were way too bitter for my taste.The group at the Newton apple tree

This evening I am headed down to Alexandria to visit a friend from college who lives there, and I’m headed back up to Westminster this weekend to see my family. I'm starting to get a bit sad as we only have two more weeks left of work. With the workshop next week, I know the days will continue to fly by, but I'm thankful that I've been able to share my experience with so many amazing people!

Connor Day