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2011 SPS National Interns
2011 Interns | Past Interns | About the Program

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Name Erin Grace
University of Delaware
Internship: SPS SOCK (Science Outreach Catalyst Kit)
Follow SPS on: Twitter Facebook YouTube Photobucket The Nucleus Email and Share

Hello! My name is Erin Grace and I am a physics education major and math minor at the University of Delaware. I’m originally from Cincinnati, Ohio. Next year I will be a senior and in the spring I will be student teaching! After I graduate, I plan to be a high school physics teacher. At school I do a lot of individual and group tutoring in math and physics. I love to help students have those Aha! moments where something clicks for them.

In my spare time, I love to read, watch movies, play board games and hang out with friends. I also play clarinet and this semester for the first time steel drums. When I can, I like to play soccer and tennis. I dabble in a lot of things, without being especially good at them, such as swing dance and running. I am so excited to meet my fellow interns and get started working!


Name Erin Grace
University of Delaware
Internship: SPS SOCK (Science Outreach Catalyst Kit)
Follow SPS on: Twitter Facebook YouTube Photobucket The Nucleus Email and Share
Review of the Summer Friday, July 22nd Friday, July 1st Friday, June 10th
Friday, August 5th Friday, July 15th Friday, June 24th Friday, June 3rd
Friday, July 29th Friday, July 8th Friday, June 17th

Review of the Summer

What a great summer it’s been! The experience of being an SPS summer intern has been so rewarding - I feel like I have grown so much and I’ve had so much fun along the way.

I’ve learned a lot in creating this year’s SOCK, and I’m sure I’ll be able to use what I’ve learned when I’m a physics teacher. At the beginning of the summer I felt a little overwhelmed with the task of creating the outreach kits. But I learned to tackle things one at a time. I also learned to ask for help. Amanda and I worked really well as a team, and all the interns and staff at AIP helped us with suggestions and new ideas when Amanda and I got stuck. I think collaboration was the key ingredient for the SOCK and for teaching in general. Finishing the SOCK gave me a huge sense of accomplishment. One of my most satisfying moments was when Cabot asked “How do I get a SOCK for my school?” I was so happy that other people were excited about the lessons we made. Hopefully the SOCK will help other SPS members to share the excitement of physics with others.

This summer helped me to realize how many opportunities are out there for physics and physics education. I felt like a part of the physics community with things like the NIST and NSF tours, the Einstein Fellows Poster Session and meetings at AIP. I’m also looking forward to attending the AAPT meeting this winter. This internship has taught me how to grasp networking and professional opportunities.

Another facet of the internship was simply living in DC with 9 other awesome people. I have so many great memories of concerts in the park, museums and monuments, barbeques, a soccer game, and canoeing. Oh and froyo and racquetball. And I can’t leave out our hallway dinners and hangouts. Yes, some of my favorite summer memories were just hanging out in our hallway. I am so thankful for all the experiences given to me by the SPS summer internship program. Thank you to all the AIP staff and my fellow interns for sharing this amazing summer with me.

Friday, August 5th

For our last weekend we went canoeing/kayaking on the Potomac. Amanda and I were the last to get in our boat. As we rowed away from the dock, I noticed a problem and said “Um, Amanda, I think we’re leaking…” “WHAT?!?” So we turned around and they got us a canoe with all of its rivets still in the boat. Although Amanda was a little nervous at first, my young paddle-wan learned quickly. We all had a great time on the river.

We had two days of work this work and man were they crazy. I got a lot done on the User Manual/CD. I wrote the “Physics Behind Collisions/Gold Foil Experiment/Fission” pages which was a great learning experience because it forced me to consider what the most important facets of each topic are. I also made several videos to help the SPS chapters do the lessons, such as the “How to Set a Mousetrap” video. Since none of the summer interns had ever set a mousetrap before, we figured it was a good idea to show chapters how to set a mousetrap, hopefully sparing some SPS fingers.

We were really pushing to finish up the SOCK boxes. Anish and Mahmuda helped out a lot with getting everything together – thanks guys! It was some great teamwork and very efficient assembly lines. By the end of the day Tuesday, we had all the mystery boxes, balls, ramps, mousetraps, balls, Hot Wheels, balls, balloons and more balls put in all 25 boxes.

Wednesday was my last day in DC. It started with a breakfast at ACP, during which we reminisced about the best moments of the summer. We also did our closing surveys, wrote thank you cards and got some sweet physics swag! Afterwards, I finished up some last-minute SOCK stuff and then gave Kendra the low down on the SOCKs: All the SOCK boxes were done and I just needed a little more work on the manual at home.

Saying goodbye to all the interns felt so weird. It was like I couldn’t convince my brain that I wouldn’t be seeing everyone the next day. I definitely am going to miss all y’all! It was a fantastic summer together. =)

The ride home was eventful. Highlights included filming part a horror movie with my friends in Delaware and standing under a waterfall in Maryland. Now I’m home again, and as of tonight I finished the SOCK manual! Yay!

Friday, July 29th

If I could use one word to describe last weekend it would be HOT. My primary endeavor was to avoid this word, which I accomplished by eating a lot of ice pops and holing up in the air-conditioned dorm. On Saturday we had a nice barbeque at the White House. By White House of course I am referring to Gary White’s house. If you’re ever in the mood for some red beans and rice, you should stop by and ask Gary to make you some—they were delicious! The interns, AIP staff and Gary’s family had a fun time playing with physics toys, solving frustrating riddles and playing word games.

This week at work was a little crazy with trying to get everything done. I went shopping twice with Doug to buy materials for the SOCK. On Tuesday, we cleaned out a Michael’s craftstore of its marble inventory. Let me tell you, 6,000 marbles are pretty heavy. Why would I need that many marbles? Well…

This week I spent a lot of time researching fission and what daughter products can be produced. One thing that was really interesting to me was the probability distribution of the atomic mass of the products. When a nucleus splits, the two daughter nuclei tend to have a mass ratio of 3:2. Amanda and I worked with Gary to create a model nucleus that we could rip open to show fission. We put marbles in balloons to represent protons and neutrons in the nucleus. Then we put two balloons with marbles in them in a larger balloon, so that you could use a marble (neutron) to pop (fission) the outer balloon (uranium 235), revealing the inner balloons (daughter products) and extra marbles (neutrons). Thus we needed 236 marbles for each sock, hence the 6000 marbles.

Toward the end of the week, I worked on finishing the lesson plans for the manual and packing up the materials into separate bags to put in the SOCKs. One evening, Amanda and I stayed late after work, counting ping pong balls into bags. As we were about to leave someone told us that we were welcome to have some barbeque from the Center for History of Physics meeting going on at ACP . It was a yummy reward for working late! Anish has also helped us out a lot this week by spray painting boxes and putting marbles in balloons. Thanks Anish!

It’s nice to see all that I’ve worked on for the past 9 weeks come together here at the end. It’s hard to believe that this summer is coming to a close. We already had to say goodbye to Jack and Gary as they went off to the summer AAPT meeting in Omaha. They’ve been great mentors this summer, and I was sad to say goodbye. This coming week will definitely be a roller coaster of emotions. I’m excited to go home to see my family but sad to leave everyone at AIP and especially my fellow interns.

Friday, July 22nd

Friday night the interns went to the last Harry Potter movie, which left the girls in tears and the boys saying “Eh, it was alright.” On Saturday morning Courtney gave my sister Emily and I and a few others a tour of Capitol. Thanks Courtney! Then Emily and I looked around the Library of Congress, which turned out to be really cool. We had fun looking at the Waldseemüller Map from 1507 (which if nothing else is fun to say). The world certainly “looked” differently then! On Sunday Emily and I went to an Irish pub to watch the women’s World Cup final: USA vs. Japan. It was certainly an intense game, going all the way through overtime to penalty kicks. That night all of the interns and several of the AIP staff went to see Oklahoma performed at the Arena Stage. It was my first time seeing theater in the round and I was blown away. At the very beginning, the character Curly walked right by me onto the stage singing “Oh what a beautiful mornin.” The voices were great and we could not stop laughing at the antics on stage.

Monday was Operation Mousetrap!! All the interns in the building helped Amanda and I set up the demonstration. Together we set 270 mousetraps and put a ping pong ball on top of each (well except one that we forgot, oops!). We set the mousetraps on 3 separate boards, which was good because we accidentally set a whole board of mousetraps off and had to restart that section. Then I extremely carefully pushed the boards into the enclosure - that was a delicate process! Finally we were ready to start, and a lot of the staff came to watch too. Amanda threw an extra ping pong ball into the enclosure and immediately ping pong balls were flying everywhere! What took 2 hours to set up went off in 5 seconds, which is the beauty of a chain reaction. Thanks to all the interns for helping us set up the mousetraps! The next day I started editing the footage into a video. As I slowed down the speed of the clip, you could watch individual ping pong balls fly and the sound grew comically lower and lower. I added the time lapse of the interns setting up the mousetraps and put it to The Flight of the Bumblebee by Rimsky-Korsakov. Look for the video on youtube soon!

On Thursday was Anish’s science café that he has been planning all summer. The world-renowned string theorist Dr. James Gates was the guest speaker. He first gave a short presentation on the powers of ten, the process of dividing lengths repeatedly by ten until you get to the size of a string at 10-34 meters. He then talked about his current research before opening up the floor for discussion. Everyone asked a lot of great questions and the answers were often humorous and thought provoking at the same time. It was without a doubt the best science café I have ever been too. Good job Anish!

The interns spent the week gearing up for our final presentations which were today (Friday). All week I continually practiced and tweaked my presentation. This morning Amanda and I got all of the materials for our activities set up around the room. Then the presentations began. All the interns did a great job with their presentations. There was a great variety of topics and presentation styles. I really enjoyed presenting about what Amanda and I have accomplished this summer. It was great to have a whole room trying out our activities. We even got some suggestions. I was really looking forward to sharing my mousetrap video, and I was so happy when everyone loved it.

Friday, July 15th

The past week has been a pretty standard week if such a thing exists in DC. On Saturday 5 of my friends from school came down for the day. 8 miles, 3 museums, 6 monuments, and 9 hours later we were pretty exhausted but definitely satisfied. Sunday I made up for my busy Saturday by doing almost nothing. I did partake in a tasty sushi night though, so thanks to all the interns with sushi-making skills!

This week I continued working on my projects from last week. Finalizing the SOCK budget and ordering materials took me longer than I expected it too. There are so many small decisions to make and debating box sizes can be a draining experience. I also continued to work on the mousetrap demonstration. Gary and I tried an experiment where we tried to find the critical density of mousetraps for a chain reaction to occur. We started with 2 mousetraps in the enclosure and increased by 2’s until we reached 46 mousetraps. At 46, we still hadn’t reached critical density, but we accidently set all of them off at once, so we gave up for the day. With each addition of mousetraps, I thought to myself, surely they’ll all go off this time. Next time we’ll try it with a smaller enclosure. On Thursday Amanda and I started making the enclosure for our large scale mousetrap demonstration, otherwise known as Operation Mousetrap. Stay tuned next week for a report on the mission.

Today we went on a tour of the National Science Foundation (NSF) in Arlington, Virginia. We heard about how the grant process works in applying for science funding and about several of NSF’s many programs. At the end of the discussions, we even got to meet Dr. Cora B. Marret, the Deputy Director of NSF. Afterwards, we went to a nice Thai restaurant for lunch. At lunch we had the summer’s third glass-related incident when I dropped my water glass. Water and glass went everywhere.

All week (most of) the interns have been excited about the second Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows movie. Last night Heather and I brushed up on our HP by watching the first part of the 7th movie and I’m so excited to see the finale tonight! My older sister is arriving tonight to visit for the weekend, so I’m glad she’ll be there to watch the last movie with me.

Friday, July 8th

The interns definitely made the most of our 3 day weekend! On Saturday morning my boyfriend Paul and I headed to Arlington Cemetery, where we had a peaceful walk. After that we went to Georgetown for the afternoon. We had a nice picnic lunch in a park and then met up with Amanda and her friend. That night, a group of the interns went to a DC United soccer game. We ended up with really good seats near midfield, so we had a great view. I really enjoyed watching the game, since I love soccer and haven’t been to a game in a long time. The final score was 2-2 and not all the interns were happy with the idea of a tie: “So no one wins? That’s it?” We ended our day with tapas in Chinatown.

On Sunday Paul and I explored the Museum of the American Indian. It might be my new favorite Smithsonian. I really appreciated that Native Americans were largely responsible for the content and design of the museum. On the way back to the dorms, we stopped at the Folklife Festival on the Mall. They had a huge variety of things to see and we ended up listening to a blues band and watching traditional Colombian dancers. That evening, a group of interns left for the dress rehearsal concert at the Capitol. As we walked to the Foggy Bottom metro, we tried to ignore the ominous grey mass of clouds in the distance. Sure enough, when we got out at Federal Center SW, it was pouring. We quickly returned to the shelter of the metro and tried to wait out the storm, but it didn’t want to stop. Paul and I went to the movie theater instead and saw Midnight in Paris (highly recommended!).

Monday afternoon we set up our blankets at 4 for the 4th fireworks, so I guess you could say we were fashionably early since the fireworks weren’t until 9. Being so early, we grabbed some awesome seats on the grass on the side of the Lincoln Memorial. I spent my 5 hours eating a picnic dinner, playing frisbee, going to the FDR memorial and just relaxing. When the fireworks finally came, they were beautiful. It was a great finale to the weekend.

We only had 3 days of work this week and they flew by. This week Amanda got started on her second project (Career Pathways), which she’ll be working part-time on and I already miss her. My main project for the week was figuring out the budget for the SOCKs and ordering all of the supplies. I also tested the mousetrap demonstration several times. On Thursday Doug took me to Home Depot to buy a sheet of plexiglass to make an enclosure for the mousetraps.

On Friday we got a tour of NIST (National Institute of Standards and Technology) where Heather and Binayak work. Getting a glimpse of the research that goes on there was fascinating; we heard about everything from micro-robotics to microchips to sequencing DNA.

Friday, July 1st

Last weekend we checked off some more landmarks from our seemingly endless list of things we need to see in DC. We went to the Sculpture Garden for the Friday jazz concert, explored the American History museum and enjoyed the National Zoo. On Saturday morning I walked to the bank and asked for $40 dollars in quarters.”Doing laundry?” the woman laughed. Yes indeed.

The first two days of the week Amanda and I wrote up some of the lesson plans for the SOCK manual. Though not as exciting as testing activities, it felt good to start organizing our materials. On Tuesday, I attended Kendra, Gary and Tom’s webinar on how to improve your undergraduate research presentation. It should come in handy for our final internship presentations, which are gradually creeping up on us. That night several of the interns stuck around for dinner and a session of Dr. Richard Berg’s physics IQ test. At the show, Dr. Berg does a series of counterintuitive demonstrations, asking the audience to predict the results. By the end, my brain hurt from thinking and my abs hurt from laughing.

Wednesday, Amanda and I finally got to test out our mousetrap fission demonstration. We quickly learned that mousetraps like to eat fingers. After breaking a mousetrap on my hand, I quickly got the hang of setting mousetraps. We set up a small-scale setup to try to get a chain reaction. Gary, Kendra, Elizabeth and Anish enjoyed setting the traps off. As the jumpiest people in the building, Amanda and I were a little skittish around the snapping mousetraps and flying ping pong balls. Next week we hope to develop the demonstration to show the role of moderators in slowing neutrons in nuclear reactors. In the afternoon, the interns had a focus group with the creators of, a website about physics graduate schools. Beforehand, we tried out the website so we could offer our opinions. The website helped me kick start my search for masters programs in physics education, which is a pretty rare offering.

Thursday all the interns (sans Binayak) came to the ACP for a tour. We learned about the AAPT, Physics Today magazine, the Niels Bohr Library, the Center for History of Physics, the APS, the SPS SOCK, NOVA Science Cafes, and Government and Media Relations. I was impressed by how much goes on at the ACP! After the tour, we headed to the University of Maryland for another showing of the physics IQ test. Afterwards, Dr. Berg showed us the demonstration supply closet (though warehouse may be a more apt description). Let’s just say that I would be so happy if I could amass a physics demo collection one fourth as big for my classroom. Thursday ended with an AIP picnic at the Dyllas’ house. It was an idyllic evening of food, drink and conversation in the Dyllas’ beautiful garden. My boyfriend Paul joined me there, as he will be visiting me for the 4th of July weekend!

Friday we had another tour, this time of the Capitol. Our tour guides Courtney and Cabot really did a great job, and I learned so much about the history behind the buildings. I especially enjoyed seeing the hearing room for the Committee on Science, Space and Technology (the committee Cabot works with). As Cabot explained, committees are where the real work occurs in lawmaking. Later I had a mini-history-buff-freak-out-session about being in the rooms where the Dred Scott Supreme Court Case was held and where Charles Sumner was caned on the Senate floor. Later, I made headway on my DC List with the Botanical Gardens, the American Art Museum and some nighttime monument action (my favorite!).

I’m so excited to be in DC for the 4th! We have a lot of fun plans for the weekend, including of course seeing the fireworks on the Mall.

Friday, June 24th

Last weekend, I headed up to Delaware to move all my stuff from a storage unit into my townhouse for next year. I also got to catch up with my friends from school, which was great. We went to see Super 8, which was a great movie. During the movie, I jumped a fair bit but then that’s pretty normal for me.

This week work was improved by Amanda and I’s new stash of candy and pistachios (thanks Amanda’s parents for the care package!). We’ve spent a lot of time tweaking our activities, especially the collision activity. We experimented with videotaping the collisions with my camera. Going back through the video frame by frame, you can see how fast the balls are going by how blurred the image is. I think it shows the transfer of momentum really well and looks sweet too. We installed Final Cut editing software, so we can make videos of the collisions in slow motion and frame by frame. We also started ordering the materials to send out in the SOCKS, such as marbles, ping pong balls, and… 288 mousetraps. We got a call from the ordering department asking if we really wanted that many mousetraps. No, we do not have a large rodent problem. We are planning a nuclear fission demo involving ping pong balls (neutrons) and mousetraps (nuclei). We can’t wait until the mousetraps come in to try it out!

Monday the ACP interns had the amazing opportunity to go with Tom and Jack to the Albert Einstein Distinguished Educator Fellowship Program poster session (quite a mouthful!). In the program, K-12 teachers spend a year in DC, working for different branches of the federal government in policy, research and outreach. It was held at the Kennedy Caucus Room in the Russell Senate Office Building. Jack told us about the historical significance of the room, and I was excited just to be in such a grand, historic room. We toured the different posters and had conversations with the educators about their projects. I was blown away by their accomplishments and interesting travels, everything from doing astronomy outreach in Malaysia to working on a green schools initiative in DC to studying penguins in Antarctica! Apparently during the session, John McCain walked into the room, though I did not notice him! He had been giving someone a tour of the building and wanted to show them the plaque of the Kennedy Caucus Room. Overall the session was a great experience, and as an added bonus, I enjoyed the fanciest hors d'oeuvres I’ve ever had.

On Tuesday, Amanda and I started a Twitter account (SPSSOCKMONKEYS!) to share our progress with the SOCK. I’d never tweeted before, but Amanda has been showing me the ropes. Amanda is the jedi master to my young padawan for tweeting. I aspire to her mastery of the medium. Tuesday night we attended a science café about nanotechnology. I learned a lot about carbon nanotubes and enjoyed by barbeque chicken with my bbq bib!

On Wednesday, the interns at the ACP went to a lunch meeting about education/outreach. We had “the distinct pleasure” of hearing about all the things going on in education and outreach, and sharing what we had been working on. Moriel showed a very cool demonstration with blue ice floating in oil, but the water melting off the ice sinking to the bottom. Then Amanda and I shared our Mystery Box Activity with the ACP staff. Just before the meeting, Doug helped us with a key improvement in the activity. We put poster paper under the mystery box so that the participants could draw the paths of the marbles coming out of the box. Everyone really enjoyed the activity. It was funny to watch the staff become as curious as the 3rd graders about what was in the boxes. Now it wouldn’t be a Wednesday if the interns didn’t head to Farragut for the concert and froyo. On the way to the concert, Amanda and I made a pitstop at a cute knitting store. Amanda and I bought some bright yarns and needles so that we could knit scarves during our commute on the metro. At the concert, I showed Amanda how to knit and my padawan is learning fast!

Thursday night the interns made some delicious red curry. I won’t mention any names, but some of the interns are quickly becoming addicted to curry. I am in danger of being the next to fall victim to the addiction.

Dang, if my journals keep growing at this rate, I’m going to be in trouble by journal 10!

See y'all later! Come back now ya hear?! (Don't get confused, this language is not indigenous to Ohio)

Friday, June 17th

This weekend I went to my boyfriend’s cousin’s wedding in Wisconsin. Transitioning from 95° in DC to the cool 60° there was quite a shock! The ceremony was beautiful, and dancing at the reception was a lot of fun. With all of the traveling and wedding preparation, the weekend flew by and soon I was back in DC.

Monday morning on the metro, Amanda and I nervously reviewed the lesson plan while everyone else reassured us that everything would be fine. When we walked into the classroom and saw the eager 3rd graders, my nerves disappeared. I was really happy with how our lessons went. We taught two lessons of 50 students each (100 students total!). We started our lessons by presenting a mystery that went with the lesson for “our team of detectives” to solve. The 3rd graders really got into their roles as detectives and were very excited to be able to solve the mystery using what they learned in the collision activity. During the collision activity, my group eagerly explained their predictions about what would happen after each collision. Throughout the whole lesson, I was so impressed with the students’ maturity and logical reasoning skills. On the way out, the group of interns and staff walked through the cafeteria, where the 3rd graders were eating lunch. Most of the students jumped up and eagerly yelled goodbye to us. As I waved goodbye, I thought about how cool my job is. Then our group went out for ice cream to decompress (mmm… black raspberry ice cream!). We discussed how the lesson went and also brainstormed how we would adapt the lesson for the outreach event on Wednesday with 7th graders.

Tuesday was a whirlwind of preparation. Amanda and I split up the to-do list, and got to work reshaping our lesson so that it would be at the right level for 7th graders. Based on a suggestion from Gary, I worked on changing our Gold Foil/Mystery Box activity. I created ramps with 5 individual tracks on them so that students could roll marbles down specific tracks into the mystery box. I also made new worksheets for the activities.

Wednesday was another adventure with the 7th grade outreach event. Due to a google maps fail, we arrived just a little bit late. We didn’t miss too much of the class time, but not being able to properly set up beforehand left me feeling scrambled for the rest of the first lesson. Overall both lessons went well, and I think the students learned about collisions and the nucleus. The students were actively engaged in solving the mystery, which was shown when they pointed out all of the plot holes in our mystery video. =) Their comments will help us redevelop the mystery storyline. Later during the collision activity, my groups seemed a little bored. I think the collision activity will have to be developed more for middle schoolers and high schoolers so that they really want to investigate and explore. The mystery boxes got their interest again and having the separate tracks to roll the marbles down helped them to figure out what was inside the mystery boxes.

The rest of the week at work, Amanda and I have been brainstorming other activities and demonstrations to include in the SOCK. We are excited to try out a nuclear fission demonstration next week that we found online.

With all of the big events at work this week, it was nice to go out and have fun in the evenings. On Monday, we went to a science café called “Annoying: the Science of What Bugs Us.” It was a really fascinating topic and the speaker Joe Palca was quite funny. I liked that the format of the café was more discussion based rather than lecture based. Tuesday Amanda and I had another epic racquetball game. Wednesday we revisited Farragut Square for the weekly outdoor concert. Afterwards, we went to a happy hour and then a little shopping. Thursday, we tried out a bar to see if it would work as the location for Anish’s science café that he is planning. Afterwards, we stopped at a small empanada restaurant, and I tried my first empanada. My conclusion: delicious.

Friday, June 10th

This week at work Amanda and I have been focused on getting our first lesson ready for next Monday, when we have our first outreach event with third grade classes at Tuckahoe Elementary School. We are planning on doing two main activities: a collision activity where students test different combinations of balls in collisions and a recreation of the Gold Foil Experiment where students must figure out the structure inside a mystery box by rolling marbles into it (just like Rutherford learned about the structure of gold atoms by shooting alpha particles at them).

To get the lesson ready, we have gone through a long process of ups and downs. For example for the collision activity it went something like this: buy activity materials, test materials, make activity worksheet, change our activity idea, try new materials, go back to the original activity idea, go buy more materials, finish worksheet, and finally practice activity with staff at the office. It feels like for the past two weeks, Amanda and I have alternated days of excitement and days of frustration. Some days we find some new revelation to improve our lesson and the next day we realize some snag that we have to fix. I guess it is all part of the creative process. We need to have those moments of frustration in order to improve our lesson. One thing that really helps us at those times is to talk to someone else in the office. Often they have a fresh perspective (they haven’t been staring at the problem for the last 5 days) and can help us a lot. We have gotten some great ideas and advice this week from Gary, Kendra, Elizabeth, Doug, Sacha, Lydia, Tom, Jack, Anish, Fidele and Moriel. We’ve basically go the whole office backing us up!

Yesterday we got to test our lesson for a group of interns and staff. It was great to watch everyone get excited about our activities. Everyone particularly enjoyed the recreation of the Gold Foil Experiment. They also had a lot of constructive feedback about how we can improve small details and what we did well.

My week hasn’t been all work and no play though (especially since a lot of time work is more like play in the first place). Over the weekend, we explored Chinatown, saw the White House, took a long walk around the Tidal Basin—visiting the FDR Memorial and the Thomas Jefferson Memorial, and explored the Air and Space Museum. On Sunday we had a group spaghetti dinner. We want to make a weekly tradition of Sunday night group dinners. One of the highlights of the week was stopping at an outdoor concert in a park and eating delicious froyo. I savored my mango and strawberry froyo while watching people salsa dance to the music in the park. A lot of the interns have been going to the gym or for runs most nights after work. Last night we discovered the campus racquetball courts and that was a blast.

Tonight I will be flying to a wedding in Wisconsin, so I’m looking forward to a fun-filled weekend and for our first outreach event on Monday!

Friday, June 3rd

I have had an amazing first week in DC. Sunday afternoon my boyfriend drove me down from Baltimore, so it was a relatively easy drive with only a couple of "No, the next exit off the roundabout!!” moments. He helped me move into my dorm. By that night almost all of the interns had arrived and we went out to a pub for some drinks and food. It was exciting to get to know everyone. Afterwards we spontaneously decided to walk down to the National Mall, which is really close to our dorm. Standing on the top of the illuminated Lincoln Memorial looking down the mall at the Washington Monument and the Capitol Building, I felt like I was on top of the world. On Monday all the interns got more settled in, stocked up on food, and got to know each other more. We were all excited about starting our internships the next day.

I woke up early on Tuesday excited for my first day at ACP (American Center for Physics). Together we navigated the metro to the ACP (only one blip when 7 of us bought day passes which apparently do not work until 9am). Overall the day felt like a more exciting version of the first day of school (and I actually really love the first day of school). We got to meet a lot of the staff of SPS and AIP, all of whom were so friendly and inviting. For lunch we had a surprise guest: the physicist John Mather, who won the 2006 Nobel Prize in physics! He told us how he got to where he is today at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center, and about his research in cosmology. He was very down-to-Earth (well at least his personality). In the afternoon, we split up based on our internships. All of the 2nd floor interns (Amanda, Anish and I) met with Gary and Kendra to talk about our projects for the summer. Amanda and I will be working on the SOCK (Science Outreach Catalyst Kit) this summer. We will be creating activities and demonstrations for SPS chapters to do in outreach events with elementary through high school students. This year’s theme is… The Nucleus: Celebrating a Century of Revolution.

The rest of the week Amanda and I have been planning our first lesson for the SOCK. It will be about the Gold Foil Experiment, in which Ernest Rutherford discovered the nucleus. We are working on a collisions activity with balls and cars of different masses. We also are developing a demonstration that is a macroscopic model of the experiment. It’s been challenging to figure out how to represent the material on a level that the students will be able to internalize and understand. We keep asking ourselves, “What are the key concepts that we want the students to leave with?” And of course we want to create a lesson where the students can have fun doing science. As for us, Amanda and I (with help from Anish) are having a blast testing ideas and finding new materials. While there is still so much to do, I think we got a great start this week.

If this week is any indication, I am in for a great summer.

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Name Erin Grace
University of Delaware
Internship: SPS SOCK (Science Outreach Catalyst Kit)
Follow SPS on: Twitter Facebook YouTube Photobucket The Nucleus Email and Share

Final Presentation

2011 SPS SOCK: A Century of Revolution

This year marks the 10th year of SPS’s Science Outreach Catalyst Kit (SOCK) program. The theme of this year’s SOCK is “A Century of Revolution,” which celebrates Rutherford’s discovery of the atomic nucleus based on the results of the Gold Foil Experiment. For the first lesson, students solve a “gold robbery” by learning about collisions. In the collision activity, students form patterns in why different kinds of balls collide differently. The second activity, the mystery box activity, is a metaphor for the Gold Foil Experiment. Students roll marbles (alpha particles) into a raised box (gold foil) and observe the directions the marbles exit the box. The last lesson is on nuclear fission and focuses on how nuclear reactions can become a chain reaction. Throwing a ping pong ball into an enclosure of set mousetraps with ping pong balls on top gives students a very vivid picture of chain reactions.

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