SPS interns reach out with light

14 July 2014

On June 19, SPS interns Kearns Louis-Jean, Mark Sellers, and Jake Zalkind, and SPS program manager Joe York, conducted an outreach event at Tuckahoe Elementary for 50 enthusiastic third-grade students. The first demonstration was “borrowed” from the 2013 SOCK—using differently scaled rulers to measure equal lengths of rope—to stress the importance of standards of measurement, then segued into a discussion about how light can be used to measure distance.

The students were also intensely engaged in creating “stained glass” out of transparency films, cellophane tape, and polarizers all layered on an overhead projector. Each student got to make a pane of stained glass by layering tape in a pattern on a small transparency cutout, which was then arranged on the projector, and they all received a pair of diffraction glasses to look at the spectra from excited gases.

On the 4th of July, the interns worked through the masses attending the fireworks display on the National Mall and passed out diffraction glasses to the spectators. They focused mainly on reaching out to children, to peak their natural scientific curiosity. The families were vocal in expressing their appreciation of the stellar display. You can see a short video of the fireworks spectacle (taken through diffraction glasses) on Instagram.

You can read more about the SPS interns’ experiences through their weekly journals.