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Shelby Klomp, SPS Chapter Co-President, Gustavus Adolphus College

SPS members enjoy some sunshine while cleaning up along Highway 169.The sound of young kids shouting with excitement isn’t common on college campuses, but it’s a welcome sound on the second floor of Olin Hall during our annual Science on Saturday event. This is when local elementary school students crowd into classrooms and labs to witness all the mind-blowing spectacles that the Gustavus Adolphus College physics department has to offer. From the shocking Van de Graaf generator to the explosive ping-pong vacuum cannon and the impressive light shows made from optics equipment, there’s something to capture each child’s imagination in our extensive physics demonstration collection.

SPS members demonstrate the energy generated by a bicycle as part of the Discover the Outdoors event.Science demonstrations are integral to the Gustavus physics community, and outreach events are the primary way that we serve the surrounding communities. We love sharing physics with others. During the fall semester we put on a science and nature camp for first through fifth graders, and in the spring we host multiple events for elementary and middle school students from local schools.

Physicists-in-training watch a bed-of-nails demonstration during an outreach event put on by the Gustavus SPS chapter. Photos courtesy of the Gustavus Adolphus College SPS chapter.“Teaching and engaging with younger students can inspire them to embrace learning in a new light and foster a lifelong curiosity of the natural world,” says junior physics major Espen Fredrick, a member of our outreach team who has participated in many of these events.

Last year, our Society of Physics Students chapter also showcased physics demonstrations during our Give to Gustavus Day livestream event, which helped to raise funding for scholarships. The crowd was blown away when we lit up our flaming oscilloscope and made the fire dance to the frequencies of the function generator.

Science demonstrations also serve as a great way to connect with Gustavus students who might not otherwise be involved in science on campus. Our SPS chapter collaborates with other science-based organizations on campus to host an annual STEM SNL (Saturday Night in Lund). This event brings Gustavus students together on a Saturday night for a fun-filled evening of science-themed demos. Last year’s highlight was Professor Darsa Donelan exemplifying the dizzying effects of an angular momentum conservation platform.

SPS also sponsored a Gusties After Dark event for students on campus last year. The event challenged students to use science and engineering to construct a spaghetti tower and build a container that would keep an egg safe during a plunge from a second-floor balcony. Junior physics major Lawrence Hiquiana loves how being involved in these events helps him improve his own physics understanding. “It gives me an opportunity to try and explain something complex to someone that has no background in the field,” he says.

The Gustavus Adolphus SPS chapter is dedicated to promoting environmental sustainability in the community. We highlight several demonstrations related to renewable energy and protecting the environment at the annual Discover the Outdoors event at Gustavus, which celebrates Earth Day and encourages people to get outside and enjoy the natural world.

Our chapter’s commitment to sustainability is also visible in our regular activities and service projects. The physics department keeps compost bins in our building and tracks energy consumption to promote turning off lights outside of regular hours. Our SPS chapter cleans up a 2-mile section of a local highway twice each year. “Highway cleanup is a great community outreach event, because as we drive to and from St. Peter, we can see the positive impact we made on our community and environment,” says physics major Kate McGregor.

Through everything we do—getting people excited about physics, educating the community about the importance of appreciating the Earth, and cleaning up our environment—our SPS chapter strives to make positive impacts on our community. In the process, we’ve discovered that we grow as stewards of our community and become better equipped to share the importance of science in our world.

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