Programs & Awards  
2012 SPS National Interns
2012 Interns | Past Interns | About the Program

  • Introduction
  • Online Journal
  • Presentation
Name Melissa Hoffman
Drew University
Internship: SPS SOCK (Science Outreach Catalyst Kit)
Follow SPS on: Twitter Facebook YouTube Photobucket The Nucleus Email and Share

Hello, everyone! My name Melissa and I’m from Woodland Park, New Jersey. I am currently a junior at Drew University, pursuing a double major in physics and mathematics. I rarely ever leave the physics department, as I am either running a review session for the intro classes, finishing up a project in lab, or up in the observatory on Friday nights, checking in on the universe. My past two summers were spent in the Drew Observatory doing research on variable stars, so this will be the first summer since starting college that I won’t be sitting on a rooftop every night! I was just elected President of our SPS chapter for the 2012-2013 academic year, and I am thrilled to be going to D.C. this summer to work with the SPS!

When I’m not studying or working somewhere in the physics department, I am usually drawing editorials and making graphics at the office of our school’s newspaper, The Acorn, working in the school’s organic garden, making boxes for old books in the conservation offices at the library, or wandering through the shelves at the comic book store downtown. In my spare time, I like drawing and cartooning, reading, playing guitar, and hanging out with my friends.


Name Melissa Hoffman
Drew University
Internship: SPS SOCK (Science Outreach Catalyst Kit)
Follow SPS on: Twitter Facebook YouTube Photobucket The Nucleus Email and Share
Week 1 Week 2 Week 3 Week 4
Week 5 Week 6 Week 7 Week 8
Week 9 Week 10 Final Reflections

Week 1, June 8, 2012

My first week working for SPS has been a whirlwind of meeting new people, going to new places, and being busier and more excited than I’ve ever been! I drove down to D.C. on Saturday with my mom and grandma. We found some delicious food and I spent the rest of Saturday unpacking and hanging out with my summer roommate, Meredith, who will also be working on the SOCKs with me. Sunday we wasted no time – Meredith, her boyfriend Dan, and I went exploring in Georgetown for most of the morning and afternoon – who knew we were only blocks away from what seemed like hundreds of shops, restaurants, and interesting places. Later, Meredith and I met up with Matthew, one of the other interns to take a trip down to the Lincoln Memorial! That evening, all the interns had arrived, so we all walked over to T.G.I.Friday’s for dinner – not the most unique place, but we had a great time meeting and talking to one another.

At 7:45 A.M. the interns gathered together to journey to the ACP for the first time! Orientation was an incredible experience. We had the opportunity of a lifetime when Dr. John Mather, who won the Nobel Prize in physics in 2006, sat down with us for lunch! After orientation, we all headed off to our work places to talk with our mentors, get situated, and get started! Meredith, Matthew, Ryan, and Shouvik are all working at the ACP, so we boarded the elevator to our respective floors. Meredith, Matthew, and I met with Gary White, who will be guiding Meredith and I ask we work on the SOCKs. SOCKs, or Science Outreach Catalyst Kits, are kits that contain projects, demos, and activities that an SPS chapter can apply to receive, and then they in turn can use it for outreach to people of all ages and interest. After talking for a little bit, we found out we have to present to Tuckahoe Elementary School next Wednesday, June 13th, and that our theme of this year’s SOCK is “Fabric of the Cosmos,” the title of which should be familiar if you are acquainted with NOVA’s series of the same name, based on Brian Greene’s novel! Gary then informed us we would be playing with Spandex, and the four of us headed down to the cafeteria, because we’d need a little space. Gary showed us how Spandex makes an excellent abstraction of space-time, and using Spandex and a huge bag of marbles, we can create an analogue for gravity. We are going to use Spandex in the SOCK to convey the concept of gravity as one of the important ‘invisible fields’ in the universe! We also decided to use magnetism in the SOCK as another example of an invisible field of the universe, and we talked about lots of examples, projects, and demos.

As the week progressed, Meredith and I have been doing lots of research and ordering lots of equipment to flush out our ideas for the SOCK. We have decided to do a classic but powerful project for magnetism – using iron filings to reveal the field lines of a magnet! We spent lots of time Thursday having fun ourselves; we used strong magnets, weak magnets, weird shapes, stacked together, opposing poles facing one another, weird arrangements… we even rolled some magnetic spheres under the iron filings in an attempt to see an interesting collision that we witnessed with the same two spheres on the Spandex. We decided the iron filing experiment, while very interesting and fun, is a little messy, so later today (Friday) we will be heading out to the craft store in search of supplies for our creative solutions. We also decided to include a lesson about electricity and electric power. We had an amazing opportunity on Thursday to go to the home of Dr. & Mrs. Marc and Vivian Brodsky for a celebration of the 50th anniversary of the Niels Bohr Library. I got to talk to so many amazing people who love science just as much as I do.

Living in D.C. has also been an amazing experience in itself. The interns are all on the 9th floor of a residence hall, and the first night Meredith propped open our door and we have pretty much left it open so people can wander in and say hi! Almost every visitor has told us that we have more chairs than anyone else. As a group, we’ve got to hang out quite a bit. We have gone out for frozen yogurt, to the Froggy Bottom Pub, and have had a lot of fun just sitting around eating and talking in the dorms. One of the most interesting new parts of my life is making dinner for myself most nights! One of our best dishes Meredith and I made this week was pasta in tomato basil sauce, and we even picked up a loaf of some kind of cheese bread while we made a stop in Dupont Circle.
This summer definitely has lots of exciting things in store!

< back to top

Week 2, June 15, 2012

 Wow, this has been a busy week! My second week in D.C. has been full of things to do and places to be! My weekend began very nicely because my aunt and uncle, who used to live in the D.C. area, came down from Jersey and took me out for an incredible dinner on Friday night. Then, while my uncle was in meetings on Saturday, my aunt and I went on a boat tour along the Potomac and explored Oldstown a little bit! Sunday, six of the nine interns took an adventure through the Museum of Natural History, walking amidst dinosaur bones, giant whale models, and rare gemstones. I loved the gemstones and minerals, and the crystals came in so many different interesting geometric arrangements; some grew in long curving tendrils like gypsum while others, like pyrite, grew in cubes so perfect that they looked somehow ersatz. Sunday night those of us at the Museum had a delicious pasta dinner together, and then all of the interns gathered together to watch another episode of the dashing and innovative MacGyver, something we've done twice now as a group and I hope continue to, because we get to watch cool bits of science, lots of really bad acting, and even worse 80's clothes.

Monday was the start of a wild week for Meredith and I. We had to prepare for our first outreach event at Tuckahoe Elementary on Wednesday, and then one immediately following that on Thursday at Yorktown High School. We had two interactive lessons and one demonstration planned. Part of Monday we spent deciding which Spandex demos would be best for the third grade classroom and assembling our magnetic field viewers. We also got to take a trip over the University of Maryland’s physics department, where we met with Dr. Matthew Brobowsky, the director of the Physics Lecture-Demonstration Facility, who showed us the coolest room at the University of Maryland – the stock room, full to the brim with demonstrations. Walking into the room was like walking into some wild physics-themed Batcave, complete with a turntable connected to the lecture hall so that Dr. Brobowsky’s team could prepare demonstrations on one table, flip a switch, and watch them rotate into the lecture hall for a new class as an empty table came towards them. Tuesday was just as exciting, as we tested our two lessons on staff and some other interns working at ACP. Everyone seemed to enjoy participating in and watching the Spandex demonstrations and learning about magnetic fields. We also presented some demonstrations borrow from Dr. Brobowsky on electric power – sets of coils connected to an ammeter, a hand crank flashlight, a mini-generator.

Wednesday Meredith, Gary, Kendra, Elizabeth, Matthew, Ryan and I headed over to Tuckahoe Elementary armed with Spandex, marbles, magnets and more! We had 3 groups of about 40 kids – that’s a lot of third graders! Every single group was a wonderful experience. They seemed the most engaged with the Spandex and marbles, and also were very excited to learn about magnetic fields. The third graders were all incredibly vocal – they were willing to answer any question we asked, theorize about something mysterious we presented them with and even share their own knowledge, which I greatly underestimated, because at least two of the kids knew about space-time, shepherd moons, and quite a few were eager to mention black holes. We unfortunately did not get to our electrical power demonstrations, but it turned out that we may not need to include them, that magnetism and gravity may be impactful enough on their own. Afterwards we all had a pizza lunch with the teachers, who raved about the success of the event, and then had a group powwow afterwards over ice cream! Meredith and I were so nervous originally, and so happy that things went well, that we decided to go out to dinner that night and most of the interns came with us! Binayak recommended Clyde’s in Chinatown, a frequented spot of the 2011 interns, and it was delicious! I had goat cheese and basil ravioli, yum!!

Thursday Meredith, Gary and I headed over to Yorktown High School. I was a little more nervous about this outreach event than Tuckahoe – High schoolers are very different in temperament and willingness to share than third graders. We only had a half hour with three groups of twenty, so we decided to only do our Gravity lesson. They absolutely loved it! Gary was inspired to incorporate apples to help show some scale, so we handed out apples (which was very appropriate as it was their lunch period) and explained that all life on this planet, everything living that we know about on planet earth can fit in the skin of an apple, if you were to downsize Earth to the size of an apple. We also explained that a bowling ball and an apple have the same size ratio as the Earth and Moon, so we can use them as a scaled model (though you have to stand on opposite sides of the room to get the distance right). Afterwards, the three of us went to lunch to assess the success of our second event at the Lost Dog Café, where I had this incredible sandwich called "The President.”

Today, Meredith and I are wrapping up and developing goals of our lessons, streamlining our magnetism lesson, and making a big to-do list for next week. We are going to try to go to D.C. Improv later tonight!

Before I sign off on this journal, I’d like to share a little story that I shared with the Yorktown groups, upon Gary’s request. On Wednesday, just as we were leaving work, Gary handed me a copy of the SPS Observer with a story he wrote all about scale (remember the apples?), and I read it out loud to the interns while we walked to the metro. In the article, this time we call the Earth a potato, which makes the moon about the size of a glass marble. Now, if you wanted to know the scale distance to the sun, place your potato on a street. Now find a school bus, start at the potato and drive a half-mile away from it. The sun, in our scale model, is as wide as the school bus is long, and is a half-mile away from the potato. THAT’S HUGE. I spent the entire walk to the metro stuttering "Guys, a half mile! And a school bus! Guys!!" But everyone else either wasn't quite as moved as I or had already had their 'Oh-my-god-the-universe-is-huge' moment some other time. However, if you want to feel even smaller that you must feel after reading this (F.Y.I., in that model people are smaller than a red blood cell), read the rest of Gary’s article in the Observer… (page 3)

< back to top

Week 3, June 22, 2012

     My third week working at AIP brought in first day of summer – with that came a heat wave and my first taste of summer in D.C. Friday night Meredith, her boyfriend, Jonathan and I went to D.C. Improv, a comedy club and restaurant. It was probably the best ab workout I have had in a while, because I started laughing when the first comedian came on stage and didn’t stop laughing till the last one ended, two hours later. This past weekend was not too hot, so on Saturday most of the interns went to the zoo! We saw lots of animals – though quite a few must have been feeling the heat too, and didn’t come out at all while I was there, like the Giant Panda. We also got to see zoo staff feed a Giant Pacific Octopus, which was one of the coolest things I saw there. After the zoo, we walked towards Dupont circle and stopped for dinner at an Ethiopian restaurant. Sunday was nice and slow – I met up with a friend from college at the Mall, then got home and enjoyed my Sunday evening.
     This week started off with a science shopping spree of sorts. Meredith and I ordered lots of exciting things for our lesson on magnetism. We ordered a plethora of magnets, iron filings, iron powder, magnetic field viewing film, and even Ferrofluid. Ferrofluid is a liquid that is strongly magnetized in the presence of a magnetic field. It is made of a combination of certain types of fluids and very small iron particles. It is useful to ‘see’ magnetic fields, as the iron particles in the fluid align with magnetic field lines, causing the fluid to appear as if it’s being controlled by some ghostly hand, moving around and forming eerie spindles. We’re very excited for all of our fun toys – I mean important equipment for the SOCKs – to come in the mail. We also built a frame for the Spandex so that Meredith and I have the freedom to use it without having to convince other interns and colleagues to take time out of their busy schedules to hold on to the edges of Spandex while we roll marbles and test demos. The frame we built will also be useful for our videos we plan on making of the Spandex demos and lessons. This week we also found a new interesting thing to model on the Spandex – density gradients! Gary pointed that if we build a ‘planet’ out of a random mixture of golf balls and ping-pong balls, as our planet orbits our hand, they will arrange themselves according to density; the golf balls group together at the center, and the ping-pong balls will come out to the edges. We are going to try to flush this concept out a little more and add it to our lessons in the SOCK. We also took pictures of the magnetic fields of various arrangements of magnets to use in an activity in the Magnetism lesson. Meredith, Elizabeth, and I had fun trying to create deceptive magnetic field patterns that take at least five minutes of arguing over magnet shapes and polarities to decipher.
     Tuesday we had a very exciting day, both during and after work. During the day was the ACP Picnic! From 12-2:30, all the staff working in the building headed downstairs for delicious picnic food, egg races, and a talent show. That evening, the interns headed over to Nationals Park for a baseball game! We watched the Nationals play the Tampa Bay Rays but unfortunately the Nats lost 4-5. Despite the loss, I had a great time because Matt taught me how to fill out a scorecard, something I’ve seen many baseball dads do at my brother’s games when he was younger. I bought my dad a Nationals baseball cap, but decided to break it in for him because I forgot my sunglasses. So between the scorecard and the hat, I felt like a real, genuine fan of the great American pastime. Thursday was also exciting, as we went to the Education/Outreach Lunch meeting at the ACP. Everyone interested in Education and Outreach came together for a pizza lunch to share projects, upcoming events, and in the case of some of the interns – complete with toys and demos. Matt shared his really cool homemade laminar flow demo with us. He said the apparatus used in TV and lab demos costs over $500, but his PVC pipe and transparency sheet contraption was under $10, and worked really well! Then, Meredith and I brought everyone out into the rotunda to play with some Spandex and learn about the Roche Limit and ring formation!

< back to top

Week 4, June 29, 2012

As I sat down to write this journal, I realized it’s the last week of June, and I don’t remember where the rest of June went! This weekend was, as usual, very busy and very entertaining! Friday we left work and headed out to the Sculpture Gardens for a night of Jazz… unfortunately, by the time we got there, most of the good seats had been taken. We took a long hike up Capitol Hill to a burger place that Matt and Allen’s friend Dan recommended – the Good Stuff Eatery. I had the Obama Burger, which was incredible, and also the second President themed sandwich I’ve had that has been absolutely delectable. Saturday most of the interns headed over to the Air and Space Museum, which was very cool and enormous. My favorite exhibit was Exploring the Universe, which was all about space – stars, telescopes, and the many probes we have sent out to act as our eyes in outer space. Later, we had a group potluck dinner – and I think it was the first time in a while all of the interns were together for a meal. Everyone made delicious dishes and had a really fantastic time. Sunday, Meredith and I ventured to the Eastern market, where we bought cards and eccentric ravioli – I got goat cheese and basil, yum! Thomas made us all homemade pizza that night which was fantastic, and so another busy weekend ended. 

We’ve also had quite a wild week at work. Monday, Meredith and I continued to work on our Magnetic Field Game and Magnet Catalogue. We have been developing a game that presents players with a net magnetic field produced by a few carefully (and sometimes sneakily) arranged bar magnets. Players then have to use their knowledge of magnetic fields to decide how many magnets were used, how they were arranged, whether like poles or opposites face each other, etc. We will be testing this game tomorrow at lunch with the SPS Executive Committee and other interns. We have had quite a fun time watching Elizabeth, Gary, and others attempt to decipher these net fields the past two weeks! Tuesday morning was like Christmas in June, because Santa brought us packages and packages of magnets, iron filings, and all of our equipment we ordered last week! Unfortunately, this week I also caught some awful cold, so my day was cut short on Tuesday, and I went back to the dorms to sleep and try to vanquish my cold with an army of cough drops, tissues, and medicine. Wednesday I was back in business and just in time to meet our new advisor for the summer, Aaron Schuetz. Gary will be leaving us this week to take a position as the rotating Program Officer at the National Science Foundation Division of Undergraduate Education of the Directorate of Education and Human Resources. However, he has left us in the expert care of Aaron, a teacher at Yorktown High School (the school we went to for an outreach event) and a past Einstein Fellow, who will be helping us on the SOCK for the rest of our internship! He is very enthusiastic about our project and Meredith and I are excited to work with him. Thursday was a very busy day – we finally received and tested our bearing balls to try to integrate into our density gradient demo. Meredith, Gary, and I spent some time in the afternoon playing with Ferrofluid. Ferrofluid is super cool, and also super messy. I got stains on my hands that still haven’t washed out all the way, but luckily everyone’s clothing survived the demo, which was a feat in itself because Gary had on a white shirt! This week is a bittersweet because Friday (today) is Gary’s last day at ACP, for a while at least, so Thursday afternoon there was a party celebrating Gary’s move to NSF which included lots of cake, heartfelt speeches, and even a little singing.

Today we had a tour of the ACP with (almost) all the interns who don’t work here. We met with lots of people, and got to find out about all of the interesting things that happen at the ACP. We also toured the Neils Bohr Library and the Archive, which was my favorite part. After dinner with the committee, we will be going to see The Music Man at the Arena Stage!

This weekend I will be heading out to Delaware to visit some friends. I’m very excited to see them, but not excited about the heat… Here’s to a cool weekend, of staying indoors in the air conditioning as much as I can!

< back to top

Week 5, July 6, 2012

This week has been one of the hottest and best weeks in D.C. so far! Friday we gave a tour of the ACP to Allen & Thomas, the only other interns that don’t work here. We had a great time showing them around and finding out about all the different people and organizations that are here at the ACP. We also got to test some of our activities at the SPS Executive Committee lunch, which was a great success! After the tour, the interns were invited to have dinner with the SPS Executive Committee and then attend a performance of The Music Man at the Arena Stage. The Arena Stage is a theater-in-the-round, and it was an entirely new experience for me. The Music Man is one of those really excellent musicals which has a particularly magical quality, namely that once you see it in a theater, for the next few weeks you’re plagued to hear it everywhere.

Saturday, I was supposed to go visit friends in Delaware, however my train was cancelled due to the damage from the Friday night storm. However, I spent a good part of Saturday in Union Station, waiting for a delayed train. When I got back to the dorms I was a little blue, not being able to see my friends, but I was cheered right up because the boys brought the movie The Trueman Show to watch. Sunday was rather relaxing. Allen, Matt, and I went to see Brave – which was incredible, and a very nice escape from the heat! Later that night we had dinner in Shouvik’s apartment together.

Work was very strange this week because Independence Day fell right in the middle on a Wednesday. So Tuesday felt like a Friday, and Friday felt like a Tuesday. Tuesday, July 3rd, Meredith, Aaron and I went on a major shopping trip to buy lots of materials for the SOCK. It’s exciting to buy things in bulk instead of one at a time to test, because it means we’re getting closer to actually being able to send out the SOCKs! We bought lots of marbles, tent poles, glitter shakers, and tons more.

Then, right in the middle of the week we had Independence Day in Washington D.C.! We got to sleep in on a Wednesday (scandalous!) and around 2:30 in the afternoon, the SPS Interns and some of the other interns living on our floor packed our bags and headed over to the Capitol Lawn. We had fantastic seats on the right side of the lawn, and spent the day reading, eating, and just hanging out. We listened to the concert on Capitol Hill, which featured Philip Philips, Megan Hilty, Matthew Broderick, and John Williams!! I think my favorite part was watching the fireworks with the U.S. Army Ceremonial Band playing marches in the background – and you’ll never guess what song they played amidst the well-known patriotic marches… Seventy-Six Trombones!

While waking up on Thursday was one of the harder things I had to do all week, our day at work was a great success. We tested our fiberglass tent poles as a frame for the Spandex and they worked magnificently. The icing on the cake was discovering we would not need to sew a sleeve in twenty-five circular pieces of Spandex because binder clips held everything together brilliantly! Today (Friday) we prepared for our meeting with NOVA on Tuesday, and spent the rest of the day filming our various activities and demos on the Spandex.  Later we’ll be attending a Nationals game with the American Geophysical Institute’s interns!

< back to top

Week 6, July 13, 2012

When I sat down to write my journal today, I could barely believe that I was already writing my week 6 journal! Last Friday we went to another National’s game, this time with the American Geological Institute interns and staff. We had a great time with them, and with each game I am coming to love baseball more and more. I think learning how to fill out a scorecard completely changed my baseball experience, and now I can’t wait to get back. Saturday the interns who were around went to the Hirshhorn Museum of Modern Art and the Archives. I will admit, I’m much more of an art lover than a history buff, but both experiences were very exciting. The Hirshhorn, like any modern art museum is filled with really incredible masterpieces… and things that could be mistaken for items in a garage sale. However, the “Suprasensorial” exhibit was really interesting, and I simply adored seeing a Piet Mondrian piece! The historic documents in the Archives were awesome, but I think my favorite part were the letters to the presidents over the years – ranging from a teenaged girl imploring the president not to send Elvis to war, to a veteran soldier sending in one dollar to compensate for the extra piece of bread he stole during army training.

Sunday I went to Virginia to spend some time with family. I got to relax and eat delicious Arnold Palmer cupcakes that my cousin made. After a rejuvenating Sunday, I got right back to being busy on Monday. Meredith and I spent most of Monday preparing for our meeting with NOVA the next day. We finished editing our video (which you can now find here), compiling our supplies list, and going over what we wanted to say. Tuesday morning, we were nervous as ever, but we had little reason to be! Our meeting with NOVA went superbly, and everyone we talked to was excited about our project, and had lots of ideas to offer to include in the SOCK. The rest of the day was spent preparing for another outreach event on Wednesday at a science camp at the University of Maryland. Tuesday night, Matt, Allen, Meredith and I headed over to the Kennedy Center after a delicious dinner courtesy of Allen to see members of the Kennedy Center Symphonic Orchestra perform at the 6:00 free concert!

Glitter Art!  
Glitter Art inspired by the particle decay pattern of the Higgs Boson.  

Wednesday, Meredith, Kendra, Elizabeth, Matt, and I headed over to the University of Maryland’s Physics Building to test our Magnetism activity on rising 9th graders. Overall, it went very well, though it gave us a chance to see some flaws in our activity and game that we will address before we test it once more in two weeks at UM on a different group. The Net Magnetic Field Game seems to go over very well; however we have talked about a few ways of improving the setup. And the Ferrofluid, while still incredibly cool, is still incredibly messy. However, it feels very good to be in the fine-tuning stages of the SOCK as we are finally out of the brainstorming cloud!

Thursday we started writing up our user guide for the magnetism activities, and editing what we have written on the Spandex. It was a fairly quiet and very productive day. Today, we are continuing to work on writing up the user’s guide, so it will probably be another quiet day.

Our time at the office this week hasn’t been all work and no play… Last week we bought 28 shakers of glitter, to use for iron filing containers because plastic cap on plastic bottle keeps filing leakage at a minimum. One of our tasks this week was emptying and cleaning them, to prepare to fill them with iron filings. Well, one we emptied them out we had a TON of extra glitter. So in light of the recently discovered Higgs-like particle, Meredith and I decided a little science themed artwork would be a good break in the day. Our glitter remakes of particle decay patterns from bubble chambers are now hung around the office, sprinkling glitter on anyone who jostles their hanging place.

< back to top

Week 7, July 20, 2012

My weekend started off with a five-hour bus ride to New York, where I turned around and headed south to the shore for the weekend. Every year my family goes down the shore for two weeks and stays on Long Beach Island in New Jersey. (For those not up to date with Jersey lingo, in North Jersey you go ‘down the shore’ to the various beach towns along the Jersey coastline. However, you could be anywhere else in the country and even if it’s geographically incorrect at your present location, if you’re going to the Jersey shore you’re going down the shore.) I enjoyed a blithe weekend with family and friends, sunbathing on the beach and frolicking in the ocean. My friends and I won “Best Dressed” at Flamingo Golf and I scored well under par, which is rare for me. Sunday, I went back to New York, only to get on a bus, turn around again, south bound for D.C.

Meredith and I have had a somewhat quiet, productive week. We have been working on our user manual all week, which is a very different experience than testing out and refining activities. We have been writing instructions for each activity, information sheets that outline the physics concepts behind the SOCK, making diagrams for certain lessons. It’s been very interesting to learn about all the different facets of writing a user guide.

On Tuesday Meredith and I got to participate in a creative development session with other members of the AIP to brainstorm themes and ideas for the Physics Today mailing. The brainstorming process was actually quite a bit of fun, and I got to meet even more of the AIP staff that I hadn’t known before. Later on Tuesday, I attending a webinar, “Acing the Physics GRE’s” presented by Dr. Jeremy Dodd of Columbia University. The great graduate school quest has been my summer project when I’m not working on the SOCK, and this webinar was a very good resource.

In addition to writing we have spent the week doing little tasks – such as making hooks out of wire hangers to hang masses from for the Spandex activity and putting together the magnetic field viewers. We are ardently waiting for the rest of our SOCK items to arrive at the ACP, and until they do we still have lots of those little tasks to get done.

Thursday we were scheduled to attend a barbeque at the Dylla’s, however, due to threats of inclement weather the barbeque was held here at the ACP! We had a fantastic time and it only started raining as we were leaving the ACP later that night! I got the chance to meet a few SPS interns of the past, and talk to them about where their careers have taken them and how the internship affected their lives. I also had an excellent time talking about baseball with Jack and Tom, and talking about campus ghost stories with Kendra and the other interns!

< back to top

Week 8, July 27, 2012

I cannot believe I am already writing my week 8 journal! This summer has gone by so fast! We only have one and a half weeks left to get everything together, which is really exciting but really sad.

Friday night a bunch of us went to go see The Dark Knight Rises. I simply adore Batman, and I am an avid follower of the comics and movies, so I had a great time watching the completion of Christopher Nolan’s trilogy. On Saturday Jon, Meredith and two other friends went to the Newseum. It was an enormous museum, so we only really saw half of it. Sunday I visited with my aunt and uncle in Virginia and relaxed!

Meredith and I wrote out a calendar on a whiteboard a few weeks ago with our deadlines and events all scheduled out. As we approach the last week and a half, we have had a lot to get done. Monday was spent preparing for our outreach even on Tuesday at the University of Maryland’s summer science camp. We made corrections to our worksheets and power points, refined the activity using our experience from the last outreach. We got together our supplies, worksheets, and prizes and then went over to the physics building the next morning. We were overjoyed with the zealousness of this group as they competed to be the first to figure out the configuration of magnets. We learned that one of the mystery net fields actually has two solutions! Wednesday we finally finished the user guide (well, the rough draft, at least) and took lots of pictures to put into it. We still need to edit the user guide before it is ready to be shipped out. Thursday we finished taking all pictures for the user guide. We also had a very exciting afternoon because we were finally ready to order the boxes! Thursday night we were subjected to the Physics IQ Test, as presented by Dr. Berg, from the University of Maryland. The Physics IQ Test presented us with a series of “counterintuitive” physics demonstrations that we had to predict the outcome of. One of my favorite demos involved two tracks to race pool palls on. One of the tracks was straight and the other dipped down in the middle then became level with the other track. We had to predict which track would win, if the balls were started with the same speed at the same time. We had to vote for the winner: Track 1, Track 2, or a tie. I predicted wrong and was pleasantly surprised by the simplicity of the explanation! (I won’t reveal the answer here in case anyone wants to figure it out themselves, in which case this ( website would be helpful!)  

Friday we got to tour the National Institute of Standards and Technology, where Binayak and Tom work. Their mentor John Schuele led us around the massive grounds to different labs and interesting spots. We got to visit a lab that housed two Scanning Electron Microscopes and one Helium Ion Beam Microscope. We got to see a few other labs, including the one that Binayak and Tom work in! NIST is a really incredible place and it is full of some of the world’s best scientists! We also got to stand under an apple tree that was grown from a cutting from Newton’s apple tree. Some interns ate the apples, but I decided to take mine with me so I can plant it in my yard at home. Perhaps years from I’ll be sitting under my own Newton’s apple tree, and an apple will fall on my head and poof! I’ll figure out some other mystery of the universe.  

< back to top

Week 9, August 3, 2012

 My last full week in D.C. was incredibly busy, both at work and in the city! It’s a good thing I was so busy though, because I didn’t have time to be sad about coming to the end of the internship. It is so hard to believe that we only have one weekend and three days of work left!

Saturday we went to the Holocaust Museum. It was a very somber, but a very well done museum. Sunday I decided to go shopping in Georgetown, as all of us interns were doing our own thing for the day. I ran into my friend Marisa and we shopped for a while then sat by the waterfront watching the ducks at the edge of the Potomac.
Monday started the first of many busy days this week. We received almost all of our supplies in the mail, and so we began to sort, count, and organize items to go into the SOCK. Our day was cut in half, because in the afternoon we had a tour of the Capitol from Allen and Jon! The tour of the capitol was very cool and that was mostly due to our knowledgeable tour guides! Between Allen and Jon we got to hear the history and going-ons in our nation’s Capitol in great detail. We went to sit in the Senate Gallery, and they must have heard some physics interns were coming, because they were talking about global warming and mentioned the words ‘physics’ ‘chemistry’ and ‘geophysical union’ (which, someone pointed out, probably aren’t mentioned every day). Tuesday was another busy day at work. Meredith and I made sure we were prepared for our final outreach event at the University of Maryland science camp. We also continued to receive packages with the last of our SOCK equipment that we opened with the same vigor as a kid on Christmas morning. The outreach event at UMD was one of my favorite outreach events we’ve done. The camp was all rising 11th and 12th grade girls. We did our Spandex spacetime activity with them, and they absolutely loved it! All of the girls were very interested, and because everyone is forced to participate in activities involving the Spandex – throwing a marble, or simply just holding on to the edge – we got every single participant to get excited at some point. Afterwards, they asked us some questions about being a physics major and what kind of classes they should be taking in high school to be ready for college science courses. Kendra, Aaron, Meredith and I went out for ice cream afterwards, which supplied us with lots of extra energy that we used to finally sort all of our supplies into 25 piles.

Wednesday we decided to completely finish our User Manual and finish our instructional videos. It was a very different pace than sorting materials and testing parts, but the day still flew by as we polished the user guide. We cleaned up certain instructions, added pictures and diagrams, formatted the whole document, and picked out a cover page design! Thursday morning we finished up a few tasks left over from Wednesday, and then in the afternoon we were lucky enough to get a spot to tour the White House. My favorite part of the White House was all of the artwork in every single room we were allowed in. The White House itself is a miniature portrait gallery! After the White House, we walked over to the Supreme Court (so that this week we got the complete experience of all three branches of government!). We attended a half hour lecture about the history, happenings, and architecture of the Supreme Court. At first I was afraid I would fall asleep because it was a very hot day and I was very tired, but the gentleman who gave the lecture was actually very interesting and I found myself hanging on his every word!

Friday was exciting and very bittersweet, as we spent the day packing up the SOCKs into boxes! It was a very proud moment, placing each SOCK into its own box, and also amazing that the project we started at the beginning of the summer was finally a reality! I actually spent most of Friday cutting slots in green foam to put all of the magnets in so that they wouldn’t make a giant magnet clump at the bottom of the SOCK. All we have left to do is burn our videos to DVD’s, print out User Manuals, and do our final presentation on Tuesday! 

< back to top

Week 10, August 10, 2012

This week was a very short, busy, and bittersweet week! It was our last few days of work, and our last weekend in D.C.! We kicked off our last week on Sunday by going kayaking on the Potomac! We had originally planned on going out in doubles (especially people like me who have never kayaked before) but the boat rental place only had singles available so Meredith, Tom, Binayak, Matthew and I headed out in singles to brave the Potomac. As soon as we got back to the boat rental place, they explained that a storm was coming in, and that we were out there in rough conditions – yet we champed through the adventure anyways!

Monday was my birthday and our last day to get substantial things done on the SOCK. Meredith made me an excellent birthday crown out of glitter and pink construction paper and then we set off to finishing the final touches on the user manual, adding some last minute items to the boxes, and finally, running through a practice presentation with some AIP staff and the other interns. After work I went to meet my aunt and uncle at the Cheesecake Factory for a birthday dinner – and a birthday drink! But Monday night we went to bed early as Tuesday was our final presentations!

Final presentations were fantastic! We got to do demonstrations on the Spandex with everyone and even play a round of our magnetic field game! It was especially exciting to see all of the other interns’ presentations, because I didn’t know a lot of about what the interns who weren’t working at the ACP did. It was a really great morning having everyone with us to celebrate the completion of our internships and our projects! Afterwards, we went to the Ugar-Hazy Center, the ‘other’ Air and Space Museum. I wore a blue blazer with white trim and as soon as I stepped in front of the planes, I realized I unintentionally dressed like a flight attendant! After planes, planes, and more planes, the entire group of interns headed over to Founding Farmers for dinner to celebrate our last day together.

Wednesday we arrived at the ACP and were treated to a delicious breakfast and a handful of surveys to complete. After surveys, Meredith and I popped upstairs one last time to add an extra tent pole to each SOCK, burn DVDs with our videos, worksheets, and instruction manuals, and leave Kendra with a final update of the SOCK. Lots of people started leaving on Wednesday, which was very sad! Wednesday night my parents drove in a stayed at the dorms with me so that we could tour around the city on Thursday – we saw the Old Post Office Tower and went to the Library of Congress! Then Thursday night I said goodbye to Washington D.C. and started the trip back to Jersey! 

< back to top

Name Melissa Hoffman
Drew University
Internship: SPS SOCK (Science Outreach Catalyst Kit)
Follow SPS on: Twitter Facebook YouTube Photobucket The Nucleus Email and Share
Final Presentation

Operation Fabric of the Cosmos

   Home  |  Search   |   Site Map  |   Privacy   |   Contact SPS