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2003 SPS National Interns
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Ashely Smith Ashely Smith
McGill University, Quebec

Internship: SPS Outreach/MRSEC
Online Journal
Week of August 1, 2006 Week of July 11, 2006 Week of June 20, 2006
Week of July 25, 2006 Week of July 4, 2006 Week of June 13, 2006
Week of July 18, 2006 Week of June 27, 2006  
Date: August 1, 2003
Week Eight

It's hard to believe that this is the last full week of my internship here. This week I've been running around ordering the last SOCK materials and working on the instruction manual. Stacey and I also went to MRSEC on Tuesday for a great seminar on classroom management.

But one of my favorite activities this week was the hearing that we went to on Capitol Hill this Tuesday. Things had been quiet all summer, and we were concerned that we wouldn't get to see any hearings at all. Fortunately, however, there was a hearing on increasing funding for the Department of Energy, which supports a lot of basic physical science research.

The hearing was called the "Oversight hearing on Department of Energy's Office of Science. The following people spoke: Dr. Raymond Orbach, Director of the Office of Science at the Department of Energy, Spencer Abraham, Secretary of the Department of Energy, Dr. Hermann Grunder, Director of Argonne National Laboratory, Dr. Burton Richter, Nobel Laureate and Former Director of the Stanford Linear Accelerator Center and Dr. Wayne Clough, President of Georgia Institute of Technology. It was interesting to see witnesses from a number of different positions related to the Department of Energy.

One of the most interesting aspects of the hearing was that it the senators on the committee itself have very little science background. This is a common difficulty encountered by the science community, which has had to find ways to communicate the value of science to non-scientists.

As someone who is very interested in science policy, I enjoyed this look a legislative proceedings.

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Date: July 25, 2003

Week Seven

After several weeks outside at science camp, it's actually been a refreshing change to return to my desk and work one some of my other projects. I've been doing quite a bit of SOCK troubleshooting lately. After a field trip to Home Depot yielded no viable options for cylinder construction materials, I presented the problem to the MRSEC fellows at Maryland for some suggestions. After checking several websites, making many phone calls and explaining our science experiment many times to lumber companies across the country, it looks like we'll be able to order precut and drilled cylinders (something that's a great relief to Stacey and I, who otherwise would have had to machine 1000 of them ourselves!)

Stacey and I also headed to NASA this week to meet with Carolyn Ng, who works in NASA's outreach and education division. She showed us some materials that NASA distributes that we will probably include in the sock. Since the SOCKs have a space theme this year, everything will tie together nicely.

I also wrote part of a lesson plan/evaluation for the MRSEC Summer Camp that just finished. Especially after reading the feedback from the campers themselves, I really think that the camp was quite successful.

Besides that plan/evaluation, I'm also working on the instruction manual for this year's SOCK. We're trying to make it as thorough as possible, so that the SOCKs will be accessible to anyone who uses them. It's getting to be crunch time, but everything seems to be coming together nicely.

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Date: July 18, 2003

Week Six

I've had yet another busy week here. The second week of the two week camp at MRSEC finished this Friday. We covered more polymers and computers and also did a lot of outside activities...kickball, frisby golf, swimming. It has been great to be spending a lot of time out of the office for the past two weeks (and it's also been great wearing jeans to work!). On Thursday we wrote a questionaire for the kids to fill out on Friday (the last day of camp). Deepa (MRSEC's GK 12 program evaluator) also conducted interviews with several of the kids on their experience. I've been very impressed with the emphasis on feedback and improvement that MRSEC places on all of its activities. On a similar note, next week a lesson plan and suggestions for a similar camp next year will be written.

I was unable to attend the last day of camp (Friday), because we had our midterm presentations that day. While it was disappointing to miss the last day of seeing the kids, the presentations were a lot of fun, and I was impressed with the work of my fellow interns. It was also great to get a better feel for what everyone has been up to this summer.

Stacey and I had a lot of fun presenting our SOCKs and work with MRSEC's GK 12 program. We actually had the audience try out both of the activities for this years SOCKs. They all donned rainbow glasses and looked at light sources when Stacey spoke about spectroscopy & light, and they dropped cylinders and recorded data when I spoke about Mars and cylinder dropping. We realized how much fun everyone was having when it was only with some difficulty that we managed to regain everyone's attention for the remainder of our presentation!

The intern presentation was also a great place to network and to hear about the career paths of other scientists. Representatives from NIST, NASA, the NSF, AGU and MRSEC were in attendance, in addition (of course) to people from this building (AIP, APS and AAPT). Afterwards everyone was very supportive.

That afternoon we all went down to AGU to see where Philip has been working. There we heard presentations on AGU's activities in outreach, publishing and sustainable development as related to climate change. We also hear a presentation from a satellite mapping company (EarthData) that's housed in AGU's building. I found all of the presentations quite interesting, even after a full morning of presentations.

Friday was a long and exhausting day (some of us went out afterwards to celebrate), but I had a great time.

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Date: July 11, 2003

Week Five: MRSEC Science Camp

The kids have come! This week was the first week of science camp at the University of Maryland. With nine kids and with three councilors we have a pretty high councilor to camper ratio, which has worked out extremely well! The kids are fantastic, and we've made slime, rubber bands and oobleck (a material that acts like both a liquid and a solid) to explore how different polymers work. We've used spaghetti, Velcro, magnets and springs to demonstrate these useful substances. Besides polymers, we've also spent a lot of time on magnetic memory in computers, and on the code that they use to communicate (binary). We started by tearing apart a computer (which they loved) and then examining other codes with which the kids were familiar (such as Braille). We also got in a few good games of kick ball.

In addition to polymers and computers, I tried out the cylinder dropping lesson for the first time. Having been given free reign to take as much time as I saw fit, we had a lengthy lesson which included space, area and the scientific method (from problem and hypothesis to experiment and analysis). The kids did well in the lesson, and their predictions and experimental results correlated nicely. I encountered some difficulty with the portion of the lesson where we tried to graph our results, but things came together in the end. The lesson with the kids gave me a much more grounded perspective on what approach to take with the cylinder dropping lesson. Later that day both Stacey and I gave presentations on our sock to the other MRSEC fellows. Here again, we got some great feedback, although this time it was from a teacher s rather than a student's perspective. I think that both types of feedback will prove invaluable as we continue to develop the SOCKs.

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Date: July 4, 2003

Week Four
After the first few weeks of orientation, conferences, capitol hill exhibitions and initial planning for the SOCKs, things kicked into high gear this week with our final lesson development for the upcoming summer science camps at the University of Maryland. Starting next Monday we'll have 9 students (who will be in grade nine next year) at our two week science day camp. We've chosen to cover two topics extensively (polymers and magnetic memory in computers) rather than just skimming the surface of several.

I've been focusing on developing the lesson and worksheet for the computer/magnetic memory portion of the camp. We'll be talking about different codes (especially braille), ASCII and how information is magnetically encoded on a hard drive. The three of us who will be running the camp have met every day this week to finalize the lessons and plan the camp logistics.

Besides these lessons, I'm continuing to develop a lesson for the cylinder dropping experiment that will be included in this year's SOCK. It will probably include a discussion of the scientific method, area, statistics/uncertainty and graphical analysis. The first run will take place this Wednesday when I'll be using the cylinder dropping lesson for the camp at UMD. It's been a busy week full of preparation, but I'm looking forward to starting camp next week.

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Date: June 27, 2003

Week Three -- MRSEC summer camp and SOCK planning

With the first two weeks occupied largely by conferences and capitol hill exhibits, this was the first week that we were able to concentrate exclusively on developing outreach materials and lessons. It was good to get our hands around what we might be doing, both for the SOCKs and the grade nine camp for MRSEC.

After much discussion we (Gary, Stacey and myself) decide to pare down the sock to feature two in depth lessons. One will be on light, prisms and diffraction gratings (Stacey's taking the lead on that one), and the other is an ongoing cylinder dropping experiment. Since I'm heading the latter, I've sent a fair amount of time during this past week preparing a lesson plan for the cylinder experiment. I'm looking forward to presenting this to the MRSEC folks and to testing it out on some of the students at the upcoming science camp to get some of their feedback.

Equally importantly, there's been much discussion as to how the cylinders should be made. We've all worn engineer's hats this week when we've tried to minimize cost and production time for creating the cylinders. We may make them out of wood using some equipment at the university of maryland, but we haven't decided yet for certain.

Besides the SOCKs, I've also been doing a lot of work for the upcoming grade nine MRSEC summer camp. I drafted a worksheet on computer code, magnetic memory and Atomic/Magnetic Force Microscopy for the camp, as well flushing out the basic structure of the camp with the two other coordinators (Bradford and Jimmy). The initial work for this camp has been quite interesting, but I also think it will be great to see the lessons in action when camp starts a week from Monday (yikes!).

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Date: June 20, 2003

Week Two

Over the course of this week I have been busy attending a flurry of meetings and events. The week started out with preparations for the biggest event (and the subject of this journal entry): the Coalition for National Science Funding (CNSF) exhibit on capitol hill. Three of the interns (Melissa, Stacey and myself) were the AIP/APS representatives, who summarized five education/outreach/web programs that AIP/APS run. Phillip also attended (he met us there later).

Beforehand we met with several people. Malcom, AIP's graphic artist, helped us mount posters for the display. Dick, the director of AIP's government affairs division, not only briefed us on what the event would be like, but also on what work on the hill is like in general. Jack, the director of education at AIP, flew through some faces and names we might need to know and then fired off some questions about the programs that we would be describing later in the evening.

Early Tuesday afternoon we headed down to the Hill, where, after some brief navigational confusion, we arrived the Rayburn office building. After setting up the display we had a lot of time on our hands before the event officially began at 5:30. We took turns exploring the other displays (ranging from sociology to astronomy) and eagerly awaited the arrival of guests (and the commencement of food consumption!).

People started trickling in around 5:30 and gradually made their way over to our table. We spoke with several NSF representatives, some people from other booths, some congressional staffers as well as Congressman Ehlers, to whom Jack introduced us. The evening was characterized by the ebb and flow of people toward our table (it was nice to have periodic breaks!). By the end I think that everyone was exhausted, but overall the evening was a good window into some aspects of hill life--something I'd like to become involved in in the near future.

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Date: June 13, 2003

Orientation, AGU Diversity Conference and MRSEC

What a whirlwind week! We started out with a comprehensive orientation during which Liz and Gary made a point of introducing us to much of what goes on in the American Center for Physics building. Not stopping there, Gary continued the orientation for Stacey, Melissa and I during the afternoon when he outlined (one of) our projects for the summer (creation of SPS Outreach Catalyst Kits) and asked for our feedback. I'm excited about this opportunity to be creative in developing the next generation of SOCKs.

On Tuesday through Thursday we attended an American Geophysical Union (AGU) conference on diversity that was held in the building. It was phenomenal, and after breaking into discussion sections, the interns were each given the opportunity to present the findings of their respective groups. It was an interesting, challenging and informative experience.

Finally, Stacey and I headed to UMD's campus with Gary on Wednesday afternoon. There we learned about another task for the summer, which is outreach work (summer science camps) with the Materials Research Science and Engineering Center (MRSEC) there.

It will be a busy summer, but it should be interesting...

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