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Fun with physics – demonstrations in kindergarten

1-fun-with-physicsWithin our formed WrUT EPS Young Minds section all of our members have the experience in the outreach field. We have been very successful in that area in the OSA & SPIE student chapters, that is why we wanted to introduce these kind of activity in the newly form section.
This project was a big success. There wasn’t any problem in changing the scope of our lectures from optics to basic physics. For children in primary school and especially in preschool every scientific presentation is a lot of fun. It also brings to them an inspiration to thinking about the experiment, its result and asking question. As from our observation these children who cannot ask any question react in a special way, on their face you can see at the beginning surprise with disbelief, after that they want to repeat the experiment by their own. When they finally convince their self that experiment show true result they have more curiosity to see and experience another demonstration, which is one of our goal to increase the interest of our physical world.
We carried out demonstrations in one of the biggest kindergarten connected with the primary school in Wroclaw, Poland. The number of attendees where around 80 children (4 groups with around 20 children in each). Our presentation was divided for parts related with air, water, light and balance. At the end some of the children wanted to bring few experiments back again to demonstration, because of their high attraction, so we combined the topics.
In our opinion this project was a success. We increased the children’s curiosity of the physical world, their also trained the ability to perform some of the experiments by their own. The challenge of searching discussed phenomena in their surrounding world went also well. We had a bit of problems with the team work, because all the kids wanted to do the experiment at one time, but for us it was an opportunity to gain some teaching experience. We don’t see any problem to repeat such project in the future if our members will bring the will to do so.

Open Readings – YM BAA 2017

OpenReadings

60th international conference for students of physics and natural sciences “Open Readings 2017” took place on 14-17th of March, 2017 in Vilnius, Lithuania. The conference gathered more than 300 presenters from 20 different countries all-around Europe while creating an interactive platform for sharing knowledge, scientific results and best practices in the fields of physics and natural sciences.


The four day conference was full of activities, including but not limited to the mentioned students’ oral and poster sessions, workshop on scientific publishing and discussion on career in science, but, of course, the highlight of the conference were the invited speakers – world-known scientists, top of the top in their fields:
  • Prof. Ben Feringa (Netherlands) – 2016 Nobel Prize laureate in Chemistry, h-index: 103;
  • Prof. John Ellis (UK) – one of the most known theoretical physicist working at CERN, h-index: 150;
  • Prof. Philip Russell (Germany) – former president of OSA and leader in the field of photonic crystal fibers, h-index: 86;
  • Prof. Michael Graetzel (Switzerland) – Millennium Technology Prize laureate, 3rd most cited chemist in the world, h-index: 207;
  • Prof. Xi-Cheng Zhang (USA) – one of the best known researchers of THz technologies, h-index: 70;
  • Prof. Eugenio Coccia (Italy) – co-author of the gravitational waves discovery, h-index: 43;
  • Prof. Naomi Halas (USA) – one of the leaders in the field of plasmonics and the use of nanoparticles in cancer treatment, h-index: 106.
  • Prof. Robin Lovell-Badge (UK) – active scientist and policy maker in the field of genetics, h-index: 66;
  • Prof. Frederik Clayessens (UK) – novel material creator by using various light sources, h-index: 23;
The importance to motivate young minds to pursue their scientific path is of an extreme importance, the students are the force who is pushing the motors of science. It seems that taking attention of over 5000 science enthusiasts coming to the conference venue and watching lectures online – let’s us make the assumption the conference did it’s job. It was the biggest scientific conference in the Lithuania.


The full program and more pictures of the event can be found at: http://www.openreadings.eu/


Science fairs & Interactive lectures

WarsawWarsaw University of Technology EPS Young Minds Section organised and participated in several events aiming to promote physics and science among children and local community. Physics can be fun and very attractive for young kids. Thanks to a grant from EPS, WUT section was able to demonstrate great new experiments adjusted to the age of participant. WUT EPS organised a visit to the local kindergarten with a fairytale full of optical phenomena. Kids were learning, while having a good time.
The section attended also the biggest outdoor science fair in Europe: “Science Picnic of Polish Radio and The Copernicus Science Centre” at the National Stadium in Warsaw.
It is Europe’s largest outdoor event aimed to promote science. Every year, it attracts crowds (over 100 thousand) of visitors to Warszawa. Scientific institutions, universities, research institutes, museums, cultural institutions, and foundations related to science and science clubs present their achievements and reveal the behind-the-scenes aspects of their everyday work. This year’s theme was: “Health and inventions”, so we tried to show how light-based technologies are used in medicine.
Next event the Warsaw section attended was organised by Warsaw University of Technology. It was an educational picnic “From micro to macro” for kids mainly from primary schools.
In september section organised a game: “Rycerze koherencji: W poszukiwaniu gargulca” and a lecture on holography, as a part of Warsaw Festival of Science.
The target of this event was students from primary and secondary school. A game in which the participants under the pretext of searching Gargoyle learn about the phenomenon, and devices used in optical measuring, among others, interferometry, thermal imaging, 3D scanning and luminescence. The lecture was prepared for older audience, so everyone could find something for themselves.

Sounds right? Sounds good!

Trieste4Besides the various big science events that take place in Trieste, we believe it is important to bring
scientific dissemination to the general public also in its every day life. For this reason, we like to
organize events in pubs, to talk about science in a relaxed setting. Last summer, we had a talk
entitled “Sounds right? Sounds good!” about the physics of music at a pub, just before a local band
played some good music. With the help of a guitar and a string, we talked about how music is
described by waves, what spectral range we humans are able to hear and what the role of
harmonics is in the characteristics of the various music instruments.

Mini Maker Faire – Science Picnic

Trieste3Trieste has a very high concentration of research centres. This results in various big scientific events,
which gather people from the institutes and university to present their activity to the general
public. Among these events there are the Mini Maker Faire and the Science Picnic, which in 2016
took place consecutively at the International Centre for Theoretical Physics, in which we took part
with our own stand. There, we presented to the public facts about space science and the Solar
System. We had 3D-printed models of comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko and of the ESA Rosetta
probe, paper models of the Rosetta probe to give out to kids, posters on the Solar System and a
binocular, which projected on a cardboard the Sun and a solar spot.
Besides our stand, we had many time-slots to present our talks on the physics of music (“Sounds
right? Sounds good!”), the ESA Rosetta mission, the measurement of the cosmic microwave
background, and the observation of the sky in the infrared spectral range from the Antartic and
from space. In more detail, the measurement of the CMB was discussed with the aid of guitar, to
present it in analogy to the description of waves on a string. The talk on the observation of the
infrared sky was, instead, in the form of a double talk with two speakers, each arguing in favour of
his preferred kind of location.
The number of people reached in these events is large, since these attract people both from the city
and from the whole Friuli-Venezia Giulia region. The total number of visitors to the Mini Maker Faire
has been estimated by the organizers to be 18000. Given its success, we will participate also in the
2017 edition.

Waves in physics and beyond

Trieste1The recurrence in Trieste activities of the role of waves in physics motivated us to develop a more in-depth activity on waves. For this reason, we asked the Young Minds Project to finance the building of an educational model of spectrometer. Such spectrometer fits in a larger educational/outreach unit, in which we present to students and the general public the spectral analysis of waves.
The concept of spectrum and of Fourier analysis is first introduced with a well-known object, the tuning fork. With the aid of a smartphone app, it is possible to show various aspects of sound waves, like the origin of harmonics and the spectrum of the human voice.
After the introduction of the concepts via sound waves, the spectral analysis of light allows to introduce more advanced concepts. A spectrometer allows, in fact, to see that not all light that appears as white is the same. Light from a light bulb, from a smartphone flashlight, or from discharge lamps can be shown to be different, introducing the concept of quantized energy levels in the atoms, in analogy with the discrete spectrum of a tuning fork.

This outreach unit was used for the first time in the context of a week-long college fair for 32 high school students visiting the Physics Department. In that occasion, we could use a spectrometer borrowed from a laboratory, to show the students how the spectra from the various sources look like. Afterwards, the students measured the spectrum of mercury with the home-built educational spectrometer, which is composed by a prism and a photodiode on a mechanical translator. Such rudimentary spectrometer is very useful from an educational point of view, since it allows the students to identify the key aspects in the measurement of a spectrum, such as a collimated incoming light beam and darkness in the lab. During the activity, the students were asked to answer a set of questions.

On the basis of our simple spectrometer, we are now supervising a high school student in her final-year project, for which she is building a more advanced educational spectrometer, whose draft layout is reported in the picture. This consists of a diffraction grating obtained from a DVD and a webcam sensor. While this spectrometer will be a closed-box instrument and will not be a hands-on object like the one described above, it allows to rapidly measure spectra. In the context of this student’s project, it will be used to measure the spectrum of differently coloured leaves.

We are also setting up a collaboration with a school in our region to prepare an experimental educational unit for high school students on thermal radiation and on the quantization of the atomic energy levels. Our estimate is that this will make us indirectly reach 40 students per year, since the class will be repeated every school year.

Finally, we are designing an object to illustrate the phenomenon of diffraction by a lattice. In particular, a lattice made of air balloons can produce a sound-waves diffraction pattern, in which people can literally walk.

Glasgow Science Festival and the European Researchers’ Night

SCOPE1This past year SCOPE took part in the two main events for science outreach held in the city of Glasgow.
– Glasgow Science Festival (June).
During one weekend the Kelvingrove Museum in Glasgow hosts researchers from various fields to interact with the general public. It is an excellent opportunity for SCOPE to be able to explain different physical phenomena to everyone interested. This year the title of our activity was “Spilling the beams of light”. With a number of demonstrations and hands-on experiments for children and the entire family we explained how light works. The goal of our show was to cover the key features and properties of light, from understanding how the eye works to holograms. We also included several devices (polarizers, prisms, colours, 3D glasses..), each illustrating different phenomena. Four different set-ups were proposed, attracting around 250 people, mostly families with young children (aged 4-14).
– European Researcher’s Night ¨Explorathon” (September).
“A kingdom of optical illusions” was the title of our activity, and alongside other researchers from different fields, we organized hands-on activities aimed at younger children and families. With our demonstrations we wanted to cover some key features and properties of light, by using holograms, 3D glasses and plasma lamps.
The feedback for both activities has been very positive and the overall experience was excellent.
The 3D glasses workshop continues to be one of the most attractive activities, where children have the occasion to build their own glasses and play with them watching a short 3D movie as well as 3D pictures. Besides learning, children had fun with cutting and gluing their own glasses that they could take home afterwards.
All experiments were handled with kind assistance from the coordinators of the Science Festival and Explorathon, as well as volunteers from the University of Strathclyde’s Physics department and the Institute of Photonics.

Spreading Optics in the school

USCAs it is usual in the USC-EPS Young Minds Section, we have performed several outreach activities in local Schools. Those activities are addressed to students from 5 up to 18 years old. In order to overcome the high range of ages we have, we offer to the schools a set of activities that will be tuned in order to fit with their necessities.

During the last year we have visited 4 local schools to develop our experiments mainly with children of primary school (below 12). However, we have performed some outreach activities in the faculty (2 activities with a total of 50 students). This new approach allow us to perform some experiments that can not be done in the schools, for example, a hologram activity where children learn about the nature of those items and how it can be built. The experiments in the faculty has some drawbacks, like the renting of some space to perform these experiments. In this case we have pushed the university to collaborate with the section in order to use some space for free.

As it was stated in the grant application, we asked for money in order to buy some optical elements that usually get broken during the activities (specially when small children are involved) like polarizers, diffraction gratings, etc. In this particular case we have bought thin film polarizers that are the easiest item to lose when we perform our experiments.

In conclusion, we considered that a natural step for our section is to push the schools to come to the faculty, where new experiments can be done avoiding their transportation. With this approach we can also offer visits to the faculty and their labs focused on pre-university students.

Play with water

Rome2Sharing our knowledge with anyone who is not an expert is always so nice, especially when it comes to dealing with curious people and especially with kids, those who have thousands of interesting questions all the time.
In 2016 the Rome Young Minds Section organized several interactive activities for the public during two events at the Department of Math and Physics of Roma Tre, namely “Eyes on the Moon” and “Eyes on Jupiter”. During these events there is a large public participation involving people of all ages, from kids to high school students to ordinary citizens (about 1400 particpants in total).

The topic of our activities is mainly focused on:
– water dealing with issues such as Archimedes’ principle, capillarity and the surface tension of liquids (hands-on labs).
– optics laws. The purpose of the activity was to provide an opportunity to discover optics (geometrical and physical) by means of hands-on labs.
– interactive exhibition about Jupiter and its moons. This activity was organized by means of printed images and interactive web sites, some of which created by us for this event (https://roma3astrogarden.wordpress.com/). The exhibition was animated for people browsing around, giving them the chance to discover Jupiter’s moons, its stunning auroras, the missions that are now studying the planet, and the large range of phenomena linked to it. This activity was run with the help of some third high school year students.
– the Earth and the Moon. We built a model of the Earth, the Moon and the Sun orbiting around each other (orrery) to show why the Moon is mischievous and always shows the same face. And what about the seasons? This orrery helped in getting the answers to these and many other curiosities, such as lunar phases and tides.
-the eye and the 3d vision. An experiment focused on eye’s functionality, divided into three steps: the anatomical components of a healthy eye, how these components work together, and why, if one eye works perfectly alone, we have two of them? In this regard, a demonstration on how our brains are able to make us understand the three-dimensions, using a stereoscope, was given. Moreover was explained the concept of the cinema 3D vision, with practical demonstration of the three-dimensional view of a siderite through anaglyph glasses.

Popular Science Writing Course 2016

Rome1On March the 3rd and the 4th at University “La Sapienza” Physics Department was held the workshop on scientific writing “Laboratorio di scrittura divulgativa” .
The workshop, mainly addressed to PhD students in scientific subjects (physics, chemistry, biology), was intended to give to the participants the basic tools on the non-academic scientific writing: the students would learn how to write articles for the general public instead of papers for the academic community.
To achieve this aim, the workshop was held by Manuela Cirilli and Massimiliano Razzano, both physicists and science communicators. Manuela Cirilli, in fact, is a particle physicists who works in the Knowledge Transfer Group of CERN, while Massimiliano Razzano is an astrophysicists and a professional journalist who writes for some of the most popular italian newspapers.

The workshop was divided in two days corresponding to two main parts. During the first part there was a theoretical introduction about the scientific communication in general, with a particular focus on the non-academic scientific writing. The second part of the workshop was instead more practical, because the participants were asked to become journalists themselves: under the guidance of the teachers, the students simulated an editorial meeting and wrote their own scientific articles. In this way, they learned not only how to present to the general public their scientific work in a more intriguing way, but also how to interact with the editorial staff.

This year we organised also a social event at the end of the course, in collaboration with the “Assaggi” bookstore, to present section activities to physics student and increase the section active members.