Postpandemic Outreach Builds New Bonds

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Interactions - SPS Chapters in Action

Postpandemic Outreach Builds New Bonds


Patrick Herron, SPS Chapter President, Andrew Scherer, Past SPS Chapter President (2021–22), and Kiril Streletzky, SPS Chapter Advisor, Cleveland State University

SPS members demonstrate a wave for students. We might remember 2022 as the year when life started returning to something we might call normal. With the world opening back up, our SPS chapter at Cleveland State University (CSU) had doing outreach at the top of our to-do list. Outreach has always been a priority for our chapter, and after an almost two-year hiatus, it was time to get back to doing what we love.

The grade school we had previously partnered with still didn’t allow visitors, but CSU alumna and former SPS outreach coordinator Janna Mino is a science teacher at the nearby Bio-Med Science Academy in Rootstown, Ohio. Last February she invited us to work with more than 80 seventh-grade students at the academy. This gave us a chance to get back into the swing of outreach while building meaningful connections with a new school. Thanks to a Marsh White Award from SPS National, we were able to update our equipment to keep lessons engaging and interactive.

Our visit focused on wave mechanics and optics and included large-group demonstrations, as well as more focused, interactive discussions with smaller groups. During the latter, students explored dispersion using prisms and plastic spectrometers, polarization using different gadgets, geometrical optics using a lens kit, interference using different slit arrangements, and a 3D model of the human eye. At the end of the lesson, we encouraged students to ask physics-related questions. These ranged from “What color is the sky?” to “What would happen if the moon blew up?” We also talked to students about their interests and plans for transitioning into high school.

After our successful visit with the seventh graders, we invited the high school freshmen at Bio-Med Science Academy to tour CSU and our physics department. This was a special event—all of our SPS officers and several faculty members were on hand to ensure that they had the best experience possible. Our afternoon began with tours of CSU’s optics lab, scanning tunneling microscopy (STM) and atomic force microscopy (AFM) lab, and scanning electron microscopy (SEM) lab. CSU’s strong pedigree in optics and soft matter research provided a fantastic opportunity for the Bio-Med students to see applications of physics that most aren’t exposed to prior to college.

After the lab tours, the high school students came together for more than 15 interactive demonstrations. The wide-ranging demos included testing the conservation of angular momentum on a spinning stool and feeling the strength of atmospheric pressure by trying to pull apart Magdeburg spheres, along with visually appealing demonstrations such as Jacob’s ladder and a display of electrical levitation that uses metallic paint on a ping-pong ball. Afterward, the students enjoyed a pizza lunch featuring liquid nitrogen ice cream made right before their eyes by SPS! During lunch, students had the opportunity to talk informally with SPS officers and physics faculty about what pursuing physics is all about. A few of the students even skipped sitting with their friends so they could talk to us about what we do, which was really cool!

The pandemic has made it difficult for people to connect with each other, and we’ve all felt this in the physics community. Now that places are opening back up, our chapter is working hard to encourage precollege students and show them the physics we all know and love. It was good for our chapter to get back to outreach, and we hope that our new connection to Bio-Med Science Academy will lead to a long partnership. Students prescribe a corrective lens for a 3D model of a human eye presented by CSU’s then SPS president Andrew Scherer. Photos by Janna Mino.

Get Money for Your Chapter Outreach Event or Program!

Marsh White Awards of up to $500 are available for chapter programs or events that promote an interest in physics or astronomy among students or the general public. Learn more at

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Interactions - SPS Chapters in Action