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Interactions - SPS Chapters in Action

Sharing Science

High Point SPS Chapter Brings The Universe To Their Community


Alan Vasquez Soto, SPS Vice President

High Point University

SPS students Michael Beale (purple shirt) and Noah Novembre (white shirt) inspire visitors with a hovercraft.

My freshman year at High Point University (HPU) I volunteered to build a hovercraft for an outreach station at a new SPS event, HPUniverse Day. The hovercraft turned out well, and the next year we built three of even higher quality. I love seeing the excitement as kids realize they can push their parents down the hallway with the touch of a finger.

This fall we hosted the third annual HPUniverse Day. About 1,200 people attended our 3-hour evening event. In three short years, we’ve significantly grown our event and successfully used it as a tool for engaging undergraduates in science communication.

At PhysCon this fall, one of the workshops focused on meeting students from other chapters and sharing how our chapters excel. I was shocked that when I mentioned that High Point communicates science well, no students from other chapters at my table thought this was common.

HPUniverse Day has pushed us to communicate science to a diverse crowd. Entertaining and inspiring kids to do science is the ultimate goal. Strong communication skills are key, or we risk boring everyone!

This year I helped faculty member Brad Barlow organize the event. It was very rewarding to see all of the work come together. The kids were very excited about all of the things that we did for them and really enjoyed the event. Next year I will take on more of the planning and another SPS student will help too. That way we can have another student organizer ready to take over after I graduate.

In the three years we’ve hosted this event, I’ve seen both new and returning attendees, which tells me that we’re doing a pretty good job. Working at an outreach station may not seem like a big deal, but learning how a hovercraft works might be all a kid needs to become interested in doing science. Seeing their faces light up with a passion for pursuing something new and exciting is the reason we host HPUniverse Day.  

The launching station

Volunteer Jonah Winkler helps attendees launch water bottles. Photos courtesy of High Point University.

One of the most popular stops at HPUniverse Day is the water bottle rocket launching station. The kids pump up a restrained half-filled water bottle, increasing the pressure. Then the station leader releases the restraining mechanism and the bottle flies off, expelling water. With less than $50 of materials we’ve been able to entertain kids at every HPUniverse Day without having to do much more than apply duct tape.

This activity is a great way of introducing kids to rocket mechanics. It teaches them how pressure imbalance gives you thrust via the expulsion of water. The water bottle rocket launching station has brought back some of the same kids from year to year. It was so popular this year, the line was 50–60 people long for most of the day. Online tutorials are available to help you aspiring rocketeers build one and incorporate it into your own chapter activities.

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Interactions - SPS Chapters in Action