Week 8: Trying New Things

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Friday, July 17, 2015


Hannah Pell

Another busy week with little time in the office. Monday morning was my second outreach day at NIST with Shauna and the Summer Middle School Science Teachers Institute.  We had a great opportunity to go through the sound at a distance activities, tuning fork demonstrations, discuss waves, and play with the Boomwhackers for a bit. The teachers gave wonderful insight and suggestions to how we can better address a middle school audience, which I used to prepare for my solo (and final!) outreach event for the summer: the Physics Girls camp at the University of Maryland.  I spent Wednesday afternoon with a group of 24 girls all excited about physics, what a great crowd! Based on the advice from the middle school teachers, I wrote a new worksheet better aimed at a middle school audience and tweaked my approach to the physics lesson.  I definitely learned how difficult it can be when all eyes are on you, but once the girls started making their own and talking about the physics, I could tell they certainly got a lot out of the activity. The goodie bags we prepared for them were also a plus.

Monday night I made an impulse decision to head out and explore a new area on my own.  Oh, and perform at my first ever open mic. I knew that I wouldn’t have too much time to play my oboe for the summer, so for the past two months I’ve been teaching myself ukulele. I wrote a song about physics and decided I couldn’t keep control of my itch to perform any longer. I Metro’d to Columbia Heights and checked out a place called Bloombars, a community arts venue run entirely on donations and volunteering. I quickly noticed how friendly, welcoming, and supportive the community of the place is.  The vibe was so happy, peaceful, and carefree; it certainly was the perfect place to give my first open mic performance. And then interestingly enough, a few days later while waiting for the UMD Research Park shuttle to work, someone came up to me and recognized me from it! Such a small world! I definitely hope to make it back again before the end of the month.

Wednesday night we attended a Social Media dinner organized by the SPS staff at Tracy’s house.  I particularly enjoyed it because it was an opportunity for all twelve of us interns to come back and reconnect over some really great food.  I still can’t believe how quickly this summer has flown by, and I certainly wish we had made more time to spend together as a whole group. After dinner we all discussed ways in which SPS can improve communications to its members using Facebook, twitter, Instagram and the like.  I think the discussion went very well, and additionally, I certainly realized a lot more that I can be doing to communicate the information to my chapter.  

Last week I decided to sign up for my first half-marathon back in my hometown of Hershey, PA! I’ve been running the same route for most of the summer (Woodley to Dupont then 18th street Adams Morgan on the way back – about 3.5 miles) and have recently started long-distance running. I’ve been exploring the Rock Creek Park trail and even ran all the way to George Washington University area and back, over seven miles the other morning! I’ve really caught the running-outside bug from doing so throughout the city, the beautiful sites are definitely a great motivation for me to keep going... then I often forget that I have to run back! I’m so glad my training has started off so well. Hershey Half, I’ll see you in October!

Thursday was our tour at NIST, the National Institute of Standards and Technology. After just barely making the shuttle (…it was the red line’s fault…), we started the morning off by vising the Physical Measurement Laboratory.  We learned about Teresa’s and Veronica’s summer project, and quite a bit about the interconnectivity of physics, microelectronics, and biology, which I found pretty fascinating.  Later we visited the basement lab where they determine the speed of light in air and the length of a meter.  After lunch (which was incredible by the way, the NIST cafeteria is top notch), we had the pleasure of seeing Nobel-laureate Bill Phillips’ outreach show.  Entitled “Time, Einstien, and the coolest stuff in the world”, he talked about laser cooling, relativity, and threw liquid nitrogen basically all around the stage.  I really enjoyed it, particularly because although I currently do not plan to continue my formal education in science, I plan to stay informally involved through outreach events and volunteering, and this summer has certainly taught me that. Next, we toured the Center for Neutron Research where they have a small reactor and study neutron scattering. And then our final stop was at the Isaac Newton Apple Tree.  On the NIST campus there is a tree that is a direct descendent of the tree which the apple fell to inspire Newton’s thoughts of gravity. A truly humbling sight with quite a bittersweet taste.

Oh, and this.

Hannah Pell