Justin's Summer Internship with APS PhysicsQuest

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Week of August 4, 2008 - Aug 12, 2008 at 2:04PM
36 Posts

It is hard to believe how quiet things seem now that I am back in Wisconsin after some really awesome physics fun in College Park, MD, at the American Institute of Physics.  Now I am back to the quiet farm fields and village streets of the 'greater' Platteville area.  What a change it is from the constant activity of the city, which I have now begun to get used to.  I will indeed miss all the friends that I have made at AIP but I am looking forward to keeping in touch and I will be seeing many of them at the upcoming Sigma Pi Sigma and Winter AAPT meetings which will be held in the Chicago area.  I cannot wait, but until then I have to push on to complete my degree at school.

Ah, what to do for our last weekend in Washington, D.C?  Well for the Texans and me we were going to do a little catching up on our understanding of history by hitting the National Holocaust Museum.  Wow talk about a really heavy topic to hit early in the morning.  I had never fully grasped the impact that the holocaust had on the Jewish people until I saw all of the images and information at this museum.  It is indeed scary how the influence of a single man as a dictator could allow the masses to follow in the systematic annihilation of a people.  It is scary how reason can disappear during times of war.

After spending most of the day at the museums, I figured it was time to check out the D.C. nightlife once more before heading out of town.  Most of the crew were more up for a movie since site seeing had taken a bit of a toll.  Myself I had a little bit of energy left so I figured one more crack at Mr. Smith's, the piano bar I discovered a few weeks ago in Georgetown, should be in order.  
Indeed, upon entering what is dubbed "the friendliest saloon in town" I was greeted by people singing "Sweet Home Alabama".  I immediately got caught up in the very friendly atmosphere and before I knew it I was singing at the bench right next to the piano man, Jon Adelson, singing to such classics as "The Gambler", "Hey Jude", and "Bye, Bye Miss American Pie" just to name a few of the classics.  It was indeed an awesome way to end a Saturday night.

On Sunday, Paul found out that there was a Medieval Times, which was within driving distance not too far south of Baltimore.  Therefore, who could resist seeing knights in armor engaging each other in jousting matches and sword fights for the honor of the king and queen?  I was definitely in on this one.  Therefore, Jenna, Dan, and I all climbed into Paul's car and survived the Beltway Sunday traffic to Baltimore.  Man was the place really cool when we got there.  I was surprised that it was located in a mall of all places.  I thought it would be a separate building or outside especially since, they have a fair amount of animals performing at the show.  Ah but it was indeed a really neat experience.  We rooted for our home team knight who was the Yellow and Black Knight.  He must have been new to the game, as he did not last too long in the final jousting matches.  While cheering for our knight, we had a feast of a dinner given to us including dragon meat (tastes like chicken to me!), cooked swine, cheese, potatoes, pork ribs, and other delicacies from the time period.  It was really a good time to be kings for an evening.  

Ah, but the next day I had to remove my crown and shake the jousting matches from my head and get back to work on revising a couple of my write-ups which I had turned into Becky last Friday.  In addition, I would need to copy all the files that I had at work onto my external hard drive so I can help with PhysicsQuest while still off from school.  However, I did have to do a little recounting of my weekend adventures to Becky, Jessica, and the rest of the crew over in APS Membership.  Before long, though it was Wednesday and we were all talking to Liz, Gary, and Jack, at our feedback session for the internship.  We had a good talk about what additions could help future interns and what key things made our internship a good experience.

After that I had to get up to 4th floor for a lunch party that the crew from 4th floor APS had put together for fun as a kind of good-bye for Jessica and myself since it was our last week at the office.  Man did they out do themselves!  Every thing under the sun was there including watermelon cut by Kerry and fresh produce from Gabe's garden.  After the fun there, I had to pop around on second floor to say good-bye to my friends in AIP Education.  It was indeed some good fun but it always seems like the time goes by too quickly and then we have to go.  Oh well, tis part of the intern life I guess, but I do promise to stop on by next time I am in town.  Plus I owe Doug another run at our favorite China Buffet!

Now for looking back, I have to say that the SPS Summer Internship program is still one of the best internship programs that I have come across.  This program has such a variety in where you can be placed to use your physics knowledge, from R&D at NASA and NIST to Physics policy/outreach at AIP.  For myself, I have been looking to apply my Engineering Physics degree in the nontraditional sense in education and outreach.  Last year I concentrated on learning what was all involved in designing, developing, and working on an outreach program.  This year I furthered that experience by working on developing extension activities for the 2008 PhysicsQuest.  I also began to focus more on seeking out those who share my passion and to locate areas of employment for my career interest in applying my skills in the education/outreach field.  My experiences in working at the office and attending the two conferences over this summer were indeed invaluable in guiding me to where I need to go in my academics and once I graduate with my B.S. in Engineering Physics.

I thank you all for the tremendous help that you have given me and the support that the physics community gives to its aspiring Physics students.

Week of July 28, 2008 - Aug 12, 2008 at 2:02PM
36 Posts

Man talk about a busy weekend!  After getting back from the AAPT meeting up in Canada it was time to work on my formal presentation for the internship.  I didn't know how crazy my weekend was going to be for that until Saturday morning when I headed off to Gelman Library for a good place to work on my slide show.  There I discovered that my computer had been infected with some spy ware from my trip.  My computer would give me only two web pages before Internet Explorer would crash and I would literally have to reboot my computer every hour to clear the working memory.  Talk about some not good timing.

So I wasn't sure how to remedy the situation.  I checked with Paul to see what could be done and he gave me this program called Spybot to run on my PC.  Managed to do that and still to no avail.  It made it run a little faster but Internet Explorer was still very nonfunctional.  After that I figured one solution would be to go back to the office and use my computer there.  Voila!  So I picked up some dinner from Johnny Rockets and metroed in to AIP and said "Hi" to the front desk ladies and then finally began to do some real work on the presentation.  I came in again on Sunday to do some modifications I had thought up of and get my last couple of slides complete.

Then it is off with the rest of the crew to Gary's house for his famous Louisiana Picnic for a little bit of good R&R.  Mary's family was in town and Kunal had a friend from his school who was passing through before going on a trip to visit his family in India.  There were indeed quite a few people there and it was good fun talking about our recent activities with everyone.  Then Gary's kids fired up the infamous Rock Band game and we all had a crack at being an SPS Rock Star for the evening.  Thought about trying the mike since I love having a bit of fun at piano bars but as I saw the listing of songs realized my knowledge of Rock Music is not that vast, so I worked the strings of the guitar.  After we had our debut for music it was time for the Louisiana cuisine and man was it great.  Gary and his family know how to put just the right amount of spice in his cooking as it was fabulous.

Ah the next day it was back to work on my presentation.  Becky wanted to go through a dry run of my presentation with her in the afternoon, so, that means I had to figure out what I wanted to say for each of my slides.  I had created some really awesome slides, now just a matter of filling in the blanks.  When the afternoon rolled around it was time for the run with Becky.  She gave me some really good advice on my slides and then mentioned to keep practicing, w/o note cards so I would get more comfortable and to do a few more practices before our formal practice on Tuesday.

Tuesday came and we fired out our speeches for Gary, Liz, and Kendra.  They really gave us some outstanding advice on the content and then asked some really good questions which we would probably need to know how to answer for the Q & A session.  For me it was a little bit of slide reworking and then to make sure I emphasized that I was taking the audience through my process with an example of an extension activity.  I enjoyed watching all the other presentations as it gave a deeper perspective on what everyone else had been working on over the summer.  One in particular was Barbera's work with the flexible memory chips.

Finally Wednesday came and the presentations all went well.  Afterwards a lady from NASA came over to ask some questions on how I had put together the Gel Crystals experiment and where she could get some additional information.  She then also happened to mention that it was indeed good to see such programs around for kids as they are indeed quite needed.  Indeed I have to agree and that is one of my prime reasons for looking into informal education.  Afterwards I did a little bit of work upstairs till 3:00 and then it was time for a break after the nervous adrenaline rush.

After that it's writing and more writing.  For the next couple of days as I had to get some more final copies of extension activities made along with trying to find a few more which would be the easy ones to go with the big labs I made.  Friday Mary and I had to load up the "Table of Sin" (2nd Floor) and the "Table of Temptation" (4th Floor) one more time before we have to say good bye to this summer of fun.  That and then Yvonne gave a call down for some ice cream from UMD!  Great stuff!

Week of July 21, 2008 Pt. 2 - Aug 1, 2008 at 5:16PM
36 Posts

On Tuesday, I hit a few more informational sectionals.  Then in the afternoon I decided to check out the PASCO booth which had been catching my eye for the last few hours with this demonstration bridge that was hooked up to a computer and being put through some sort of testing.  I couldn't resist.  There I ended up talking to one of the physicists who worked on developing PASCO's demonstration products.  I told her that I was interested in the education field and that I thought they had a really cool product which would be awesome to see get into high schools.  I told about a previous conference I had attended where I had run into PCS Edventures, which was a company that specialized in making classroom curriculum around toy products such as K'NEX and Lego's.  I told her that I would be interested if they had any openings for internships next summer as I would have a few design classes under my belt and that this would be an awesome educational application of my major.  We traded up business cards and I sent out an email and I am looking forward to hopefully hearing from her in the future.

On Wednesday I checked out a poster presentation that Becky knew about that had her old college program that she knew about.  She mentioned that it was on a program called UTeach and their specialty was training physics and math teachers for schools.  While talking to the lady at this poster session I learned about a new organization called the New Technology Foundation which is an organization recently founded to develop new specialized high schools throughout the country that center on getting their students ready for technology based jobs.  They use a form of curriculum which involves getting students involved in all aspects of a design project or activity instead of just a regular class.  Pretty neat as I think these are the types of schools that will be more needed in the future.  They would be the best prep school for students interested in engineering and applied science and math.  I thought this too was a pretty good find and possibly another area for the application of my major.

The New Technology Foundation

After such a full day of exploration it is time to cap it off with some physics entertainment.  I headed on over to the days next main event with Mary and Logan for the PIRA Physics Show.  Man was it a really zany show!  It started off with them putting up on a blue screen an oscilloscope reading which showed the noise being picked up by a mike in the room.  A couple of the presenters then came on the stage and clapped their hands.  This showed up on the big screen.  Next two more presenters came out stomping their feet.  That appeared on the scope.  Then they looked at the screen and then started up a beat to "We Will Rock You" by Queens only they switched up the words and made a cool song about "We Will Teach You".  It was some really cool fun and the whole show was like that, an awesome mix of science like presentations with some pop culture.  It made for a really cool evening.  I was reminded once again that there is a perspective of physics that is not all just numbers and equations.  It is just a matter of looking in the right places to find it.  

After the show, the evening of fun wasn't done quite yet.  We still had to go out and help Jessica celebrate her birthday since it is on Thursday!  Plus it was also going to be Jessica's last AAPT meeting for a while since she is heading off to work at a new position doing physics analysis for cancer.  So we definitely had to do some celebrating.  So I along with the other interns joined Jessica, Becky and some of the crew from APS and PIRA for dinner at this restaurant at the top of their Student Union building.  Man was it an awesome view.  We had a good time listening to the D.J. and getting in on a few of the games they had going before turning in for the evening.  And that is the trip, aside from my luggage getting sent to the west coast on my way back to D.C!  Ah that made for a story at work the next day.

Week of July 21, 2008 Pt. 1 - Aug 1, 2008 at 5:15PM
36 Posts

Well it has indeed been an exciting week and so much has happened that I figure for a change I'll have to focus on just one main event, and that is my trip to the 2008 AAPT Summer Meeting up in Edmonton Canada.  The conference was held at the University of Alberta and I, Becky, Jessica, and the other interns were staying at the dorms on campus.  I along with my mentors arrived just after midnight on Sunday with the Italian Canoe Water Polo team.  Alright, is that even a sport!  I did not know it was one until I had seen it for my own eyes.  I would not have guessed that combination of words was a sport.  Only in Canada, eh!?

On Sunday I had a full schedule as Becky had suggested I check out a group called PIRA who is a group of lab technicians and physics demonstrators who happened to be at this conference to put on a workshop on physics demonstrations to put on in the classroom.  This proved to be a really cool thing to check out and I enjoyed talking to them afterwards on some of the ins and outs of the demonstrations and where I could find some info on their experiments.  They even suggested that with my interests it would be wise to consider joining their organization so I could access their databases.  I just might do that as I got to hang around some of these guys later on that evening with my mentors for dinner.  At dinner I also got to meet this group from Arizona State who had driven up to the meeting in their vegetable oil powered physics bus.  How neat is that?  They are apparently well known for doing some pretty lengthy road trips in this bus doing public outreach and demonstrations for people.  Pretty cool and I'm hoping to get a picture of this infamous bus before heading out.

Physics Instructional Resource Association (PIRA)

After the PIRA demos I was off to the SPS poster session.  There I got my poster up and set out my "Ghost Crystals" for demonstrations for the people who passed by.  It was really pretty cool.  I and Logan got to talking to a wide variety of people about the various projects we had worked on.  I talked about how PhysicsQuest was being developed and that it would be available in early fall for distribution to physics educators.  Logan talked about his work on Physics To Go and how he updated the website and links.  After the poster session was about ready to wrap up, Gary fired up the Physics Jeopardy.  Well I guess I can't brag too much as our final score was $0.00.  Yeah my group bet it all.  Good fun though!

The next day I went to a session presented by Dr. Michio Kaku, author of the book "Physics of the Impossible".  Now from the name of the book alone was enough to pique my physics interest as I am a big science fiction fan and I'm always a little curious about the cutting edge theories of physics.  This was my opportunity to see in person someone who looked into this stuff.  His presentation was on some of the recent strides that have been made by theoretical physicists on making certain items that are better known in the science fiction realm of reality.  He talked about strides being made with being able to transport single atoms through space (transporter technology), faster than light travel, and even I think a little bit on ESP.  Alright I like science fiction and it is always inspiring to see what possibilities lie just on the horizon for physics.  Granted none of this is in the near future but still neat to hear them discuss the possibilities.

Info about Dr. Michio Kaku

After this talk I attended the Young Physicists Meet and Greet.  This was pretty much just an informal get together of the various interns and graduate students who had attended this conference to present posters and present at talks.  There I met two undergraduate freshmen from China who had done some really cool work on a research project compiling data from one of their Chinese satellites.  It was pretty neat to see how international this conference was.  We had some fun chatting about the differences in culture in sports, school, food, and such.  I talked a little bit about my experience over seas and they described some of their different experiences in other countries.  One thing that they mentioned that they were surprised at was the fact that they could see the sky all the time.  They took several pictures of the Edmonton skyline.  They said that back where they were from most of the view was obscured by skyscrapers.  This was something I always took for granted since I'm from Platteville, WI and the tallest building in our county is the campus radio station with all its classrooms.  After our snack at the Meet and Greet Session they wanted to hit a random fast food place for hamburgers so we went to Wendy's. Oh did they enjoy it.  They said there were burger places over in China but instead of buns for the burgers, they used a kind of a rice patty and then sandwiched the meat in between that.  Different but I might have to give it a try sometime.  Before parting ways we traded up email addresses so that we could send some pictures back and forth to each other and keep in touch.  It's been a while since I've had pen pal, let alone an international one.

Week of July 14, 2008 - Aug 1, 2008 at 5:10PM
36 Posts

Well I have to say that this week has been one of my most busiest and eventful weeks of my internship yet here in Washington. Last Friday on the metro ride to work, I happened across an ad in the Express newspaper advertising this Japanese Hibachi grill called Benihana's which was located over in Georgetown. The address of the place wasn't too far from Schenley Hall and they were having a chicken dinner special for the summer for a very reasonable price. I thought this was pretty cool and since I had been to a Hibachi grill before over in Dubuque, I thought it might be some really neat fun for us to go check out sometime.

The idea played out pretty good and sure enough, later that evening we were enjoying the entertainment of a young Japanese chef cooking dinner right before our eyes with flames leaping and knives flipping in the air. It was really neat to see. The bravest of our bunch, Kanal and Dan, went for the spicy version of the chicken. I had the regular but I decided to get adventuresome and try a Saki sampler which was very interesting. I never had considered myself a coinsurer of Japanese rice wine until now. It was quite good. After dinner I indeed had gained a finer appreciation for the ceremonious ways that Eastern cultures prepare meals.

The next day Meagan took a crew over to Philadelphia to see Independence Hall and to get a lunch with some genuine Philadelphia Cheese Steaks, which I am told there are two restaurants competing for that title. While they were out in Philly, Paul and I decided to check out the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum that was located by Dulles International Airport. There I was told they kept the space shuttle Enterprise . Yes, I am a big Star Trek fan and I had a bit itch to get my picture taken next to this science fiction icon made into real life.

So while we were there I did get my picture next to the Enterprise. Plus Paul and I checked out the really neat exhibits that they had on NASA and space flight. I swear some of the older versions of the space suit came straight out of sci-fi movies. And maybe the food did to as from the displays we saw some of the basic commodities astronauts took to space my MRE s from the military were looking far more appetizing than some of the entrees they got. Of course since I had my cool picture, we needed to find a good one for Paul. We found it in the military aircraft exhibit where I got a picture of Paul next to the world s largest reciprocating engine. That was an awesome picture.

Now after a long day of touring a museum one is out for a bit of entertainment. The evening before, I had spotted a small sign in Georgetown advertising a Piano Bar . Now back in Wisconsin I had gone to a Dueling Pianos show in Dubuque, IA and I had a lot of fun since it was an interactive piano show. So I was curious what might be the D.C. equivalent. So later on that evening Paul and I met up with Jenna and one of her friends to go check this place out. Sure enough they had a guy playing a piano at this nice bar and restaurant and he played all kinds of songs from Bye Bye Miss American Pie , The Piano man , Cheers Theme Song , Hey Jude , and a lot of other fun piano songs. We had a really awesome time. I managed to saddle up right next to the piano guy and get in a few requests before the night was through. Really fun stuff as I pretty much sang till my voice was gone.

After Saturday s excitement Sunday was a bit slower although I would be hitting yet another musical event, a Hootie and the Blowfish concert which was out at Wolftrap National Park. Never knew there was a national park for the performing arts till now. It was a really nice facility and the place was packed. I got to hear Time and Hold my Hand which was really neat to see live.

After such a jam packed weekend of things to do it was time to get back to work and my agenda for that was pretty loaded too. First off I have to work on a write up for my linear motor demonstration along with testing out this new experiment that I found online where you use a fish tank and a white beamed flash light to show why the sky turns blue and the reason you get sunsets when the sky is low to the horizon. This I thought was really neat and I thought it would be a good inclusion to the light portion of PhysicsQuest.

After such a jam packed weekend of things to do it was time to get back to work and my agenda for that was pretty packed too. First thing I began work on a write up for my linear motor demonstration. That I had to take a few pictures and begin work on diagramming how I put it together. Not too mention I also found this really cool experiment where you use a fish tank and a white beamed flashlight to show why the sky turns blue and the reason that sunsets make the sun look red when it is low in the horizon. Really neat stuff.

Oh and on Tuesday I began work with Leanne from publishing on my poster presentation for the AAPT conference. When she got me the final copy on Friday it looked just fabulous! The graphical art work that she did with my sketch and transforming it into a work of art was just too cool! Indeed Kerry had given me good assistance by sending me to her for the poster.

On Thursday we left work a little early for a tour of the Pentagon. Wow talk about an impressive tour and building. That place is a miniature city in itself with all the military and civilian people that work there. One interesting thing I learned on the tour was that there had been a lot of luck when 9/11 hit that building. When the terrorists flew their plane into the Pentagon, the tragedy could have been far, far worse. By luck they had chosen the only part of the building that had been structurally reinforced and also was the part that was under renovation and hence the least populated. Casualties on that day could have been five to six times higher at least. Wow. It is interesting how fate and coincidences can line up some how. Indeed part of the deeper mysteries of our universe.

After our tour we headed on over to Fred and Linda Dylla's house for a cook out in which they had invited all of the AIP crew to attend. There we had an awesome dinner in which I had a barbecued pulled pork sandwich, potato salad, and baked beans. There was such a variety it was difficult to choose. Oh but I did save myself enough room for dessert which was a piece of chocolate covered brownie covered in hot fudge. That was just sweeet!

Once full a couple of us interns spotted a bucket that happened to have water pistols in it. We were a little curious. Then Linda told us that they were there for mischief if we were game. She said she had a larger one in the house ready. You couldn't have baited any of us better. Before you knew it, the peaceful yard was a mini water pistol war zone. Our crew from Texas tried to stay out of it by looking like they were playing a different game, but they got hit too. Then Dan discovered the hose and really got a couple of us. Liz played the war time photographer and got some pretty cool pictures of us in action, though that didn't keep her completely immune to cross fire. Yeah that was some good summer time fun, although made for a little chilly ride back on the metro, but what a way to spend the day! Who knows what the weekend will bring with my heading off to the AAPT conference in Canada?

Week of July 7, 2008 - Jul 12, 2008 at 1:43PM
36 Posts

Fourth of July weekend in Washington, D.C. The chance to be in our nation s capital when its time to celebrate her birthday. Need I say any more? Indeed what an opportunity and I have to admit that I am very happy to get this chance twice in a row. How cool is that. Well alright, getting off of work early on the Thursday before the Fourth is pretty cool too!

Once most of us interns got back to the dorms, a few of us decided to hit the rails in search of food. Barbara, Mary, Dan, and I ended up over by Pentagon City where we found a nice Mexican restaurant to eat at. After that I kind of had a bit of a sweet tooth and Barbara suggested this place called Mary Moo s Ice Cream. Wow did they have an awesome selection as they would take any flavor they had and mix any kind of candy you could think of in it before your eyes on a grill which kept the ice cream cold while they mixed it. Once we had chosen out our ice cream we decided to kick back and listen to a band which was playing live music at the square. Indeed what a nice relaxing way to end a work day and begin a holiday!

On Friday, July 4, we watched the Independence Day Parade which was next to the National Mall. I am always amazed by the colorful display the various ethnic groups of the D.C. area put on for their floats and the dancers that come out to perform. It s just awesome. But I have to give them a lot of credit for being able to do it the whole parade route for they had to be roasting by the end.

Afterwards it was off to the ethnic fest. I watched this Bhutanese ceremonial dance at one of the tents and enjoyed the artistic display. I wish they had passed out programs so I could figure out what story the performers were trying to portray. I perused some of the exhibits including the temple and then I hit some Texas food and finally ended the day by picking up some Texas wine. I was told by the guy it was some of the best wine I could buy. Well I had to test that theory. Then I headed back to the dorms to dry off since it had rained a couple of times on me. I was aiming to meet up again with some of the other interns for the fireworks but bad weather, large crowds, and dying phone prevented this so I ended up catching the fireworks on my own next to the Washington monument. It was a beautiful continuous show though!

On Saturday I decided that I would take a look at the Newsium which I had been reading a lot about in the newspapers. That museum reminded me of how much history has happened since I was born. It is amazing how good of a record of these events media is capable of keeping and the history of the media itself. They had on display the top part of one of the broadcasting antennas from the World Trade Center in NYC. They also had a section of the Berlin Wall on display. I also watched several mini clips on different time periods of media and its influence in culture. Another interesting aspect to it was an exhibit called The, FBI, G-Man, and the press which told about the media s involvement in relations with the FBI. Such stories as the David Koresch and the Branch Dividean Cult stand-off to the Unabomber were all talked about. Interesting stuff.

Of course, all good weekends must come to an end and it was back to work on Monday. Although I have to say I was quite excited since I had a lot of projects to work on. Becky was to be out the week since she had a conference workshop out of town so the Friday before we had discussed my relative plan of action. I told her that I had three write ups to work on which include: the water crystals experiment, the galvanometer experiment, and the why the sky is blue experiment. Plus I was to mess around with a demo that I had found on a linear motor as another possible extension activity. On top of that I wanted to begin work on compiling my report for my participation at the ASEE K 12 workshop I attended last month. Ah so much writing to do. It s going to be a hard week on the eyes.

I almost forgot! One more highlight for the week. I got to shake hands with my state senator, Herb Kohl at his office at the Hart Building! Then we all got to go on a tour of the Capitol and sit in on a Senate talk on some bill dealing with information security. That s the week!

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Re: Week of July 7, 2008   (Jenna - Jul 13, 2008 at 1:44AM)
Week of June 30, 2008 - Jul 10, 2008 at 10:58AM
36 Posts

Well the weekend started off early Saturday morning with myself and the crew from Texas heading for the rails at Union Station. We were going to catch a ride on Amtrak bound for Baltimore, MD where we would check out the aquarium and see some of their shows. Paul decided that he would be good for driving to Baltimore so Jenna, Mary, and Dan caught a ride with him. Now the question became, which was faster, Paul's driving ability with his GPS or Amtrak and the Baltimore Transit system. It turned out that Paul won the race as they even managed to catch some breakfast at Panera Bread before meeting us at the Aquarium.

At the aquarium we saw lots of really cool exhibits, got to watch a dolphin show, and even got in on this new type of entertainment called the 4-D Theater. That was new to me since I had only run into those types of shows at movie theme parks. It was really a different experience which was aimed at presenting a show to you using all of your senses. This included the traditional 3-D glasses and then other effects such as blowing wind and bubbles at you, spraying water, shaking your seat, and this one that Dan and I dubbed, The Kidney Jabber. Aside from that, the ride was pretty cool.

After the aquarium we hit the water for a little bit of action on the high seas. Earlier Dan and I had seen one of those touristy pirate ships sailing out of the harbor so that kind of subconsciously implanted an idea into our minds. So after we figured out how many paddle boats we wanted to use we were on the water. Dan and I paired up and we decided to play bumper cars on the water with our boat. It was war on the high seas! Dan and I scored 3 hits on Paul's ship and 2 on Meagan's while we only received superficial damage. Good stuff!

Of course after all that fun we had to cool off. Ice cream was my way of rejuvenating and after that it was to Body World 2. That was an interesting experience. The best way that I can liken it to would be if I were to page through the transparency pages in an encyclopedia. But the hard fact to remember is that these were real people on display although it didn't seem like it. Rather weird and I can see where the controversy over this type of exhibit can exist.

Once through Body Worlds 2 we were getting kind of hungry and Meagan had mentioned that she knew a place in town that was well known for their crab cakes. Man, she was not kidding, the restaurant we went to definitely was up on the five star list and a full 5 course menu. I had a mixed platter of fish, shrimp, and scallops, with one of those crab cakes. They just melted in the mouth and indeed I knew I could not get this type of well prepared fish in the Midwest.

After all that fun for the weekend it was back to AIP to do some research on what other physics projects I can include for extension activities for Physics Quest. I completed a write up on the Jell-O Lensing Activity in which students can virtually make an edible lens and use a laser to see how light travels through it. I also have an extension project with the Water Gel Crystals in which the students can see how materials with different indices of refraction will appear and disappear in different types of solutions. The best result with that one is with a water solution with Spenda artificial sugar. The crystals really appear and disappear very well in this solution.

Next on the board is a galvanometer which will be used in conjunction with the battery project in order to assist the student in determining if there is an electric current present from a home made battery. I also found this cool demonstration of a linear motor which might be cool to add to Physics Quest. It will show that there are numerous possible designs for motors. I'll have to do some further testing on this as the problem posed will be keeping 15 or so strong magnets in close proximity of each other without snapping together.

On Wednesday I along with the other AIP interns were invited to Sonja Lopez's retirement party. I had heard about a week ago that this was in the planning. Sonja was going to be retiring so that she could help start a new school for autistic children in the D.C. area. This had been inspired by her youngest child who had just gotten through rehabilitation for this condition. It is indeed an inspirational thing she is going to be doing but sadly she will have to leave AIP to be able to put her energies into this project.

From being at the party and hearing all the stories being recounted such as Sonja's phone experience with Who Let the Dog s Out? to Gary's story of Sonja picking up his kids from daycare, I picked up on that sense of how close the AIP family can become and indeed it is a unique feeling not always common in work places. That is something cool.

This party also tossed a new idea in my direction in the fact that even in our outreach ventures we tend to forget about people with disabilities and we cannot forget that group. So I popped out an idea at Sonja to see if Gary would be able to do an outreach event for her new school sometime and she had said that Gary had already put out the offer. That is awesome and that leaves me with the feeling that when I get back to Platteville, I'll have to see if we can find a special needs group that would like to see a physics show. That would be cool. Indeed an interesting week but my excitement builds even more for the Fourth of July Fireworks show on The Mall!

Week of 23 June 2008 - Jul 1, 2008 at 3:06PM
36 Posts

Well last weekend's road trip to the ASEE K -12 Conference in Pittsburgh, PA was a great success. I have to admit though, that getting there was quite an adventure in itself. I didn't get out of the D.C. area until 7:00 PM because of the weekend traffic rush of people trying to get out of the city. It was in fact my first actual experience in a real traffic jam and indeed I learned a new form of patience. Glad I had found a good radio station.

Once out of the city it was smooth sailing towards Pittsburgh. Well, not quite. On the way there I began to notice that my cell phone with GPS was draining the batteries at a considerably faster than usual rate. Not good since I didn't have a car charger and I was really counting on that to get me to my hotel in Pittsburgh. So I powered her down for a bit and did paper navigating to the outskirts of Pittsburgh.

In Pittsburgh I powered up my GPS and I began to zero in on my hotel. Well, once again, not quite. Needless to say apparently the downtown area had been closed down and detours set up because of some festival going on into town. Definitely not fun since I really did not know the town and now I was stuck on one way streets trying to figure out how to get to the hotel. Finally I asked a desk clerk at the Hilton how to get to the address and with her directions I finally made it in by 1:00 AM. Oh well, my hotel at least had upgraded my room which was totally sweet and gave me a couple of energy drinks when I told the desk clerk how early I had to be up for my conference.

But even with the navigation troubles, which I have to say were strangely fun for some reason, the conference on Saturday was well worth attending. The opening talk from Xavier Fouger from Dassault Systems outlined what the difficulties were facing technology and engineering teachers of today and what possible solutions were out there. I then went to sectionals, one presented by PCS adventures in which they demonstrated how there simple Lego kit systems were capable of showing so many engineering concepts which children do naturally but just are not made aware of it.

Then after lunch I attended a sectional put on by the University of Pittsburgh where I learned about how they had designed a project that put students through an engineering design process for making a heating/cooling system for a chemistry class in high school. Really interesting stuff on how they designed the unit and what results they had gotten when field testing the unit.

After all that fun in Pittsburgh it was time to go. Initially I thought I would make it back to D.C. on the same day but from my previous days experience I didn't want to drive around the city at night so I picked up a hotel room near Sharpsburg, PA. Oh how great it was to sleep in a bit after all that driving. Then it was off to explore Antietam National Battlefield Park.

What a day that was. According to the weather forecast it was supposed to rain any time, but I ended up really lucking out. I went on one of those park ranger tours and he did a really outstanding job giving us the tactical situation of the battle with all the reasons behind the great leaders decisions. I was amazed at what I learned about the battle. I had not realized how close the Civil War that day had come to ending right then and there. If the Union Army had been able to properly coordinate its overwhelming numbers that day the war would have been over in 1862. However many factors contributed to the battle turning into a series of uncoordinated attacks upon the Confederate forces who were on very good defensive ground which I could see with my very own eyes. Lee had chosen wisely. The advantages of the slopes overlooking Burnside's Bridge, the awesome protection the sunken road provided and the lethality of the openness of the cornfield where the 6th & 7th Wisconsin along with the rest of the Iron Brigade had marched through. It was indeed incredible to walk the same ground in which so much had happened in one day. I had a lot to reflect on with my drive back to D.C.

Back in D.C. and at work again, I finished up my tinkering with a wet cell battery and now it was time to put it to paper. I sent a rough copy to Becky and she gave me some pointers on how to spice it up a bit. So with that in mind I fixed up the errors and gave a little more life to my writing. Then I also began a write up for my other extension activity, the Jell-O lensing. That one is a really awesome demo since it easily shows how light rays travel through a lens. So once they learn this science fact then they can also enjoy munching on their lens if they like.

Ah, and then I can't forget about CNSF. Another really awesome event to attend. There I got a chance to investigate the various other projects being funded by NSF. I saw one project on how the University of New Mexico and Arizona State had done a project where they used computer simulations and concepts in fluid dynamics to do computer modeling of the Colorado River. There big first achievement had been the fact that they included sediment analysis in their simulation so they could find out if a river would erode or deposit sediments in certain areas of the river. Cool stuff since it involved class material which I had seen the previous semester.

Then I also saw one on the Association of Science-Technology Centers in which I saw a really cool demonstration. You took a 1 cup measuring cup, dipped it in water and then poured it out. Simple right the water obviously goes out. Now do it with one that is like 1/64 c and try it. Not the same because surface tension starts to take over. Ah that is what problems face nano technology. Awesome little stunt for an outreach activity considering it is so simple and yet it conveys so much. Totally cool.

That and I can't forget our very own SPS booth where Jenna, Mary, and Logan were working on explaining ComPADRE, the Nucleus, and the other cool programs that are undertaken by AIP. They did a really good job as lots of people were over there chatting and yes having some awesome fun with the Rainbow glasses. It's just awesome seeing state representatives and senators having just as much fun as us interns do with physics. After that it was out for dinner with our mentors and man did we have a good time. I enjoyed chatting with everyone and enjoying a brew from one of the microbreweries. I have to say that it met the approval of my Wisconsin taste buds for beer! Awesome week and this weekend we're taking a rail trip to Baltimore to check out the aquarium there and see the sites!

Week of 16 June 2008 - Jul 1, 2008 at 3:04PM
36 Posts

Yeah!  It's Friday!!  I guess even with having such an awesome job as working on developing physics outreach programs one still looks forward to the freedom and possibilities for the weekend.  But for me this weekend will be even more exciting as I am going on a road trip to Pittsburgh, PA to attend the American Society of Engineering Educators K - 12 Workshop.  I will be an SPS reporter for the event documenting my adventures and the cool people I will get to meet.  It should be really exciting, but I am hoping the traffic won't be too bad as I'm going into a completely new city at night. Though I have my trusty GPS to get me there!  Got to love technology.

Recap for this week's events at work.  On Monday and Tuesday I began mass production of Jell-O for testing with a LASER to see if I could design an activity based on controlling the laser light with Jell-O lenses so the students could make the light bend through a maze.  Then Becky gave me the cool idea of trying to make concave and convex lenses with the Jell-O and to see if the light would bend appropriately enough to simulate real lenses.  This is now currently under the testing phases.

On Wednesday I went with my mentors, Jessica & Becky to assist them in putting on a workshop for elementary school teachers.  This was a really neat experience because through out the week I had gotten to see all the behind-the-scenes work needed to develop this workshop.  Then when the opportunity came for presenting the information I was amazed at how well some of the simplest things can convey the concepts of physics.  Watching the teachers have fun using Play-Doh and fish rocks to test frictional forces was just outstanding.  I could tell that with as much fun as the teachers were having with these experiments the students would just love it.  That is one thing I learned.  The ability to present physics with some of the simplest items.  Physics is everywhere it's just a matter of being able to point it out with the simplest of items.  Not with fancy lab equipment and equations.

On Thursday and Friday I gave Becky the idea that since Physics Quest was pointing out that we could make electricity to light an LED with moving magnets, why not include the fact that it can be done with a home made battery.  She thought this was a pretty cool idea so I began experimenting with the various metals and chemicals involved.  So far the most promising has been a copper penny, aluminum foil, and bleach as the electrolyte.  It's been the only combination to yield enough voltage and current to light our LED's.  I would like to weaken the solution a bit but that might reduce the current flow.

Alright so that is the work end of things.  For the fun stuff, last Friday we decided to hit a nice French Cafe style restaurant over at Georgetown.  I have to say that the Georgetown area reminds me so much of Wisconsin's Door County region, very touristy and loaded with antique and other specialty shops.  It was a shame they were closed when we went through but I figure we'll be back in that area again.  On Saturday some of us got the itch to go check out Pentagon City's Mall to see what cool stuff we could find.  Plus a few of us were looking for some work shirts and I needed a new baseball hat for my baseball outings with Ray and the MD pick-up baseball games.  I managed to get a Chicago White Sox hat.  Thought about the D.C. Nats, but. .  . .Midwest is still pretty strong in me for my love of sports.  That evening we did some hanging out in the dorms doing some gaming and movie watching.  Still working on getting through the "Firefly" series.

On Sunday, once the weather had cleared up we headed for the National Zoo.  There we had some awesome fun taking pictures of the Pandas, tigers, and a hippopotum, just to name a few.  Plus we enjoyed coming up with which animals we found in the park best fit some of our personalities.  We'll leave that up to you guys to figure out who's who.  Good stuff.  During the week I managed to get a hold of my state Senator, Herb Kohl, and was able to get a tour of the Capitol set up.  Definitely looking forward to that even though I saw it last year.  I am always amazed at the splendor with which the D.C. architects came up with.  Impressive, which even that word says to little.

Week of 9 June 2008 - Jul 1, 2008 at 3:04PM
36 Posts

I have to say that my time in D.C. really seems to fly by so incredibly fast. I think it is just because there is so much to see and do in this area that it's a constant adventure every day. Last Friday, we went to a Washington Nationals baseball game with our mentors and some members of the SPS National Congress. I was going for the full blown baseball experience since it had been a full year since my last game. I picked up some Cracker Jacks and chili cheese fries from the concessions stands and then sat down next to Tracy and Ann. We had fun watching the game and talking about how the Nats could pull off a win. But unfortunately that didn't happen as the final score ended up being 1 to 11 in favor of the S.F. Giants. Although the Nats were not lucky that night, Kunal was. He got one of those free t-shirts that they shoot up from the infield in between innings.

On Saturday I slept in to recharge my batteries a bit and then headed out with our second group which was heading for the National Archives. There I got to see some of the hand written documents written by our forefathers. Lincoln's telegraphs to Gettysburg. He had some really pretty hand writing. The Declaration of Independence, the Constitution, & the Bill of rights, all the original documents there before my eyes. Really cool to see and get that pride and sense of being an American seeing these sacred documents.

Then on Sunday, I decided to hit Arlington National Cemetery on my own for a bit of reverent time with our nation s fallen heroes. I wanted to see if the exhibit I saw last year, Faces of the Fallen, was still at the Women's Memorial and if the artists had gotten to the time period where my unit was in Iraq. I ended up finding out that it had been taken down in June 2007 and the portraits sent to the next of kin. That was pretty cool. I was given a website to check on so I could see how far they had gotten (http://www.facesofthefallen.org/). After finding that I checked out there other exhibit, The American Soldier: a Photographic Tribute. That was pretty moving seeing them progress with a soldier's life from Civil War era to present day War in Iraq. After that I revisited some of the popular resting places that I had seen last year plus a few new ones.

On Monday and Tuesday it was back again to AIP. This time I came loaded with some of my old computer files which had locations of some websites with really cool projects. I had also had a chance to watch a PBS Documentary on Nikola Tesla and I was very excited to start doing research on possible extension activities for Physics Quest. I tossed the idea of extending the light refraction of Jell-O by doing some sort of maze activity where students had to get a laser light to go to a specific goal. That could possibly develop into a really cool game, all using the applications of reflection and refraction of light. Plus I also had found online an electronics kit which would be quite handy in our messing around with coils and such.

Wednesday myself and the other interns went to Yorktown High School to do a lesson and demonstrations on the wave properties of light and how polarizer s work. We had three sessions and I thought they went very smoothly and that the students picked up the concepts quite well. In fact it was an awesome run. The wow factor of playing around with these mysterious films and then getting to play with them looking at different light sources and then orientations and combinations of the films. They were totally amazed.

Then we brought in a quick review of what they new about mechanical waves and the vocabulary associated with them. Next we set up an interactive demo where we showed them how we could control a wave in a slinky with vertical and horizontal alignments of PVC pipe. We kept on asking them predictions of what they thought would happen to the wave at each phase. Finally we introduced the third set of PVC pipes and had them guess what would happen. It was at this point that the students were beginning to make a connection between what they had experimented before with the films and the experiment we were doing. That was neat to see that on their faces. It felt good to know that we had achieved our goal in helping them understand just a bit more about light and how the concept of a polarizer works. After our fun with the high school students Gary took us to one of his favorite burger places where we had some great burgers and shakes. A great way to cool off in the heat of the day.

Week of 2 June 2008 - Jul 1, 2008 at 3:02PM
36 Posts

Well it is hard to believe but once again I am on yet another fabulous internship in the Washington, D.C. area as an SPS Summer Intern.  How great is that?  When I read my email from Liz nearly a month ago saying that I had been accepted to work for APS on Physics Quest I was just ecstatic!  It was going to be like a big family reunion for me.  I was going to be meeting up with so many familiar faces from second floor and then getting a chance to work with a new set of people from APS.  Really awesome!

On Saturday I flew in to Washington and met the new crew along with the first of many familiar faces I would meet, one being Meagan.  We all helped each other get registered at New Hall and get our luggage up from the curbside as we each arrived in town.  Paul, one of my roommates, had driven in so he came loaded for a good time.  The Nintendo Wii, and a computer rigged with a T.V. receiver/DVD playing capabilities.  Oh and did I forget to mention, surround sound.  Yeah our room was definitely going to be the kick back room for after work.  Nothing like a little bit of Mario Smash Brothers to test out the physics of collisions.

The weekend flew by quite quickly and before I knew it, I was literally running around the familiar hallways of AIP saying "Hi" to all the familiar faces and the people I met last year.  Last year I had a blast working with the people from second floor so now I could only imagine what cool stuff was in store for me this year.  

Once we had gotten done with orientation Doug took me up to meet my new mentors, Becky and Jessica, of course after we made lunch plans for getting to the China Buffet.  It was really cool to finally meet them as I had been corresponding with them through emails with ideas I had run across on the internet for our project.  Indeed they are some of the most energetic physics people I've met and they had fun showing me around the office.  I got to see where the office area, which was loaded with tons of physics gadgets and yes toys, where they worked on devising the projects and activities that were to go into the kits.

After I had a tour of my new floor, Becky gave me a copy of last year's Physics Quest kit and then assigned me to go through the kit and see how well I was able to follow the experiments and to write out comments and critiques on what I thought about the experiments.  This was going to be so much fun since it had been a while since I had any cool physics labs in my curriculum.  And so that has been what I've been working on for the past week at work.  Familiarizing myself with the office and testing out experiments.  I think the coolest one out of the kit that I did was the building of the homemade thermometer.  I know if I liked it I'm sure the middle school students just adored it.

Of course, working at AIP is only half of the story of an SPS intern.  You've got to include the fun stuff that we do after work!  And what is more interesting than  seeing what physics students consider fun after work.

On Tuesday night we decided to dig up the classic board game and test our mental might with a few games of Cranium.  I suspect this might turn into a tournament with us keeping track of team records.  The teams were Justin & Jenna vs. Meagan & Logan vs. Paul & Dan vs. Kanul & Mary with Barbara as referee.  I think Barbara had the more dangerous job but her word was law.  And then the game was off with lots of fun and some really hilarious comments.  In the end I found out that I might have to listen to the radio more while studying to pick up on more pop culture music.  But I can recognize when DNA is being sculpted out of clay.  That got us ahead by 4 spaces and it got myself and Jenna to second place.  The winners, though, of the battle of wits ended up being Meagan and Logan.

Then on Thursday, we did one of my favorite traditions from last year, For me one of the things I loved about last year was the tradition of doing a group dinner.  So I tossed out the idea of cooking up some fajitas for everyone.  Man did the idea take off.  By the time we had gotten all the stuff together, we were prepped for some good eating.  We picked up some nice steak, peppers, Vidalia onions, and because it had been so hot the last couple of days, some strawberries for smoothies.  Wow was it great and everybody enjoyed pitching in.  We had a crew cutting up vegetables, a crew for frying up the stuff in the kitchen, and a crew manning the blender.   It was an awesome night and I can't wait to see what nationality of food we'll try next.

This Friday I am looking forward to the D.C. Nationals vs. S.F. Giants baseball game that Liz and Gary got tickets for us.  I'm planning on doing the full baseball experience.  I'll bring my baseball glove for that fly ball I aim to catch and maybe I'll even have some of those Cracker Jacks during the 7th inning stretch!

Introduction - Jul 1, 2008 at 3:01PM
36 Posts

My name is Justin Reeder and I am from the awesome Midwestern state of Wisconsin where Brett Farve, Frozen Tundra, and Cheese Curds are all words of common knowledge.  I am a senior attending the University of Wisconsin--Platteville majoring in Engineering Physics.  Once I complete my undergraduate studies at U.W.P. I am looking forward to pursuing a career in Informal Education working for nonprofit organizations and societies.

This summer I will be a returning SPS Summer Intern who last year was one of the lucky two interns to work with SPS and the AIP Education Division in developing the 2007 SPS Outreach Catalyst Kit, or SOCK for short.  That summer I enjoyed doing research on cool physics experiments and projects to include in the kit.  It was literally a 'blast' testing our ideas on how to implement seat belt safety and the every popular Diet Coke and Mentos Reactions into our kit.  This year I am really looking forward to working on developing extension projects in support of the APS Physics Quest project.

Not only in my spare time do I enjoy being a student of physics at U.W. Platteville but I also happened to have served eight years in the Wisconsin Army National Guard as a Radio Telephone Operator/Maintainer (RTO).  Three years ago my unit out of Eau Claire, WI was deployed in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom to the small community of Ad-Dujahyl which is about 30 miles north of Baghdad.  There in the hot dessert sands of Iraq it was my job to be assistant RTO and gunner for my squad while we performed convoy escort missions to and from Coalition bases. I have to admit that through that experience it was indeed very interesting to see a different land and what the world looks like through a different culture's perspective.  

Now for my hobbies and interests, man I have to say that it's so hard to pick and choose which ones are my favorites.  I have to say that I am for sure a big history buff and that anything of historical significance attracts my attention, especially if it's from the Civil War.  I have toured the two great battlefields of Vicksburg and Gettysburg and I am looking forward to exploring Antietam this summer and maybe catching a reenactment.

Of course when I'm not sniffing out historical monuments and I happen to get the urge to do a little bit of exercise I always enjoy a good game of baseball which happens to be one of my favorite sports.  The University of Maryland has an awesome group from the physics department who happen to do pick up games weekly which are open to anyone.  Of course the other attractant is the pizza and socializing afterwards.  Hey you got to refuel right?

And finally for those rainy days in the summer when we get tied up in doors I enjoy firing up my crock pot and doing some cooking for the interns and doing some gaming.  Last year we got pretty famous for our competitive Taboo games and this year I have a few new ones to add to the list.  One of them is called Ninja Burger and the other is called Killer Bunnies.  You guys will have to wait and see on these!

Well that is just the tip of the iceberg on my personality.  I have to say that I am looking forward to meeting such an outstanding group of people in just a few short weeks.  It will indeed be so much fun to explore the Washington D.C. area with you all.  I am privileged to work with such an elite group to expand the realm of physics at a new level.


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