Opening the world of physics: Physics Day 2014

March 17, 2014

Melissa Kriauciunas  ‘14

Earlier this semester, Bradley students and faculty from the Physics Department gathered in Olin Hall to host their fourth annual Physics Day. Forty-four students from local area high schools toured the Physics Department and observed demonstrations performed by physics majors Emily Roth, Sam Sorkin, Erik Anderson, and Derek Sparrius. The event was led by department chair Dr. Paul Wang. 

Wang explained that the goal of Physics Day was to show the department to local high school students with high aptitude and interest in the field of physics who may want to pursue it at the collegiate level.

“We want to show how much fun students can have with physics,” said Wang.

This effort was realized through various student demonstrations showcasing physics principles and phenomena. Roth, Sorkin, Anderson, and Sparrius demonstrated concepts of momentum, energy, optics, acoustics, air pressure, and gas laws. Their presentations involved magnets, laser lights, bicycle wheels, freezing balloons with liquid nitrogen, and a fire flute.

The high school students were provided with lunch as well as a tour of the physics department laboratory. They were able to experiment and tinker with mini-demonstrations involving oscilloscopes, diffraction, and Helmholtz coils.

Erik Anderson, a junior from Wheaton, Ill., majoring in both physics and mechanical engineering, said that he was surprised by the high school students' sincere level of interest in the subject.

“Many of the students I talked to during lunch were going into STEM related fields, so they asked a lot of questions about physics and engineering courses," he said. "Throughout the demonstration I could tell a lot of the students were very intrigued. We were able to go into more detail than just layman terms behind the demonstrations.”

The high school students’ enthusiasm was also noted by Emily Roth, a senior from St. Charles, Ill, double- majoring in physics and secondary education.

“After the demonstrations many students asked questions and I could hear them relating what they saw, to what they learned in their classes," she said.

Roth’s demonstration involved on a sinusoidal pendulum, showing how the length of a pendulum is what causes a mass to swing a certain way. She stated that it was enjoyable to provide the students with an experience that furthered their learning.

At the end of the day, the visiting students were able to compete in a trivia tournament and were awarded a certificate acknowledging their participation in Physics Day. While some of the students are still beginning their college search, others have already been admitted to Bradley. 

The student demonstrations from Physics Day will be shown again on Parents Day in April this year.