Week Five: Refocusing

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Tuesday, July 4, 2017


Zakary Noel

Our time in Washington is about half over, and already my project here feels like simultaneously the most extensive and the most short-lived task I've ever performed. Rarely have I ever been able to predict the full impact of a project which I've participated in, but there's something very people-oriented about working in outreach that reassures me that it won't go unnoticed. An old mentor of mine once told me that sometimes all we can hope for is to reach a handful out of the potential dozens of people we can attract. I used to accept this as a sort of solemn understanding that we could never be quite as effective as we wished for, and that while we could make all the effort possible to reach a wider audience, our influence would only ever be, at best, limited.

But now, I think, the real meaning of that sentiment is more encouraging. We don't want to change people, after all. When we extend our hand to the public, educational, or even academic audience our main goal roughly remains the same. We want to generate conversation and interest in things relating science that people may or may not be aware of. Those with a deeper interest in the subject of physics may be inclined to pursue it further, and that's fantastic. But even still, once we've enamoured a particular group to the subject we're attempting to expose, our job is more or less complete. Of course there will always be more efficient and more creative ways of doing so, and we must always be looking for ways to keep things interesting.

Soon, I'll be taking a little break from the back-end of outreach and getting out on the frontlines at the NIST summer teachers' institute. In addition, I'll be able to field test some of the work that my co-SOCK intern and I have already put in to the outreach demonstration modules. I'm excited to both put all of our hard work to the test and to meet face-to-face with educators who will no doubt share my excitement for being part of the NIST summer program.


Thank you to the Lamar University chapter of Alpha Tau Omega, who saw virtue in me and invited me into their brotherhood of friendship. Love and Respect.

Zakary Noel