Ball of Physics

by Maeve O'Hara

Mentor: Dr. Michael Noel, Physics Department, Bryn Mawr College

The Ball of Physics, developed two years ago, is an outreach program geared towards elementary school students. The goal of the program is to spark children’s interest in the sciences by providing them with exciting demonstrations of physics concepts that they would not otherwise be exposed to. Initially, BOP (Ball of Physics) developed large-scale demonstrations and put on shows in school auditoriums. The goal of my work this summer is the development of small, hands-on presentations of physics concepts that can be used in elementary school classrooms.

The first step in developing these hands-on demonstrations is researching science shows in order to gain ideas. The information gathered will be mainly in the field of optics. Next the apparatus will be constructed using materials lying around the physics department (such as cardboard boxes, beakers and duct tape) and help from the instrument shop. Finally, each demonstration will have a short write-up on “what to do” and “how it works”. One side of a sheet of paper will give the students easy to follow instructions and the other side will contain a simple explanation of the physics concepts.

The goal for the future of BOP is to be able to bring and present specialized sets of demonstrations into elementary school classrooms. By the end of the summer BOP will have about 20 new demonstrations, mostly in optics, complete with explanation sheets ready to be brought into classrooms in the fall.

This project will be completed with the help of Professor Michael Noel and supported by the National Science Foundation under Grant No. 0134676, the Howard Hughes Medical Institute and the American Association of Physics Teachers.


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