Science Alive 2013-Stepping Up the Energy

Students use a Geiger counter to test minerals and glassware for radiation.

Students use a Geiger counter to test minerals and glassware for radiation.

This year, a whole room to ourselves

In our second year at Science Alive at the Saint Joseph library in downtown South Bend, cSEND hosted an Energy Room. We were asked last fall if we would be interested in hosting a room dedicated to energy, and I have to say, that I was a bit skeptical that I would be able to drum up enough interest within our labs to pull it off. I was wrong! Within a couple of days, nine cSEND labs had committed to staffing booths at the event.

Getting ready for Science Alive! 2013

At our first (and only) meeting with the grad students, most came with great ideas of what research concepts would resonate with elementary age kids. The grad students that weren’t quite sure what they wanted to do, were able to get advice from the others. It was a productive meeting.

The next hurdle that I was concerned about was making the research posters. Grad students and post docs are expert poster creators. But, usually their audience is other researchers that understand the gist of what they are trying to do. Would we be able to show what the labs do, so that kids (and their parents) would understand?

Again, I was pleasantly surprised. Everyone sent me the content for their posters with the following information: What is the question you are investigating? Why is it important? How do you go about researching this problem? The information I received was very well done. I only had to tweak the vocabulary a little bit here and there, but overall they were awesome! I particularly liked the photographs of “Science in Action” that they included.

A long productive day of teaching and learning

The volunteers came with plenty of supplies, enthusiasm, and energy. At first, for some, it may have felt a little awkward, but by the end of the day, everyone had tweaked their presentations to the various audiences from little bitty kids to the big ones, and were able to answer the questions that the parents threw at them. Overall, I think this was a great learning experience for everyone to practice their elevator speech AND direct it to appropriate audiences.Enrique helps a student decide which bulbs take the least amount of energy to power.

We had representatives from the following research groups: Gao, Kamat, Wolf, Xing, Ashfeld, Schneider, Henderson, and Burns. Topics included making more energy efficient polymers, the energy of different light wavelengths, catalysts, bending light to send signals, carbon dioxide is acidic, carbon dioxide can be captured, computer modeling of chemical compounds, and radioactivity.

The cSEND Student Advisory Board demonstrated the basics of energy transformation, and helped students with the AEP provided Energy Bike to see how much energy it takes to power different types of light bulbs.

A big thank you to all

Thank you to everyone that made this day a success: the cSEND grad students, the cSEND student advisory board, the faculty that lent their grad students and post docs for this event,AEP for loaning us the Energy Bike, and the super hospitable Saint Joseph Library staff and volunteers. A very special thank you to Linda, Sarah, Pat, and Dawnica at the library for the warm welcome and all of your help in getting set up. The grad students were amazed at how well organized this event was.

By the end of the day, the volunteers were getting weary, but the smiles still held firm to their faces! I’m proud of our cSEND graduate students, post docs, and Student Advisory Board members for pulling off a wonderful event!

Ally from the Wolf Catalysis Group demonstrates how catalysts work

Vlad and Beradi from the Xing group explain how light can be bent to send signals.

Vlad and Beradi from the Xing group explain how light can be bent to send signals.

Dr. Sonia Antony from the Schneider Group shows how she uses computer models to test chemical compounds.

Dr. Sonia Antony from the Schneider Group shows how she uses computer models to test chemical compounds.

Grace from the Kamat Lab demonstrates that different wavelengths of light have different amounts of energy.

Grace from the Kamat Lab demonstrates that different wavelengths of light have different amounts of energy.

Hannah from the Gao group shows how polymers could help us use less energy.

Hannah from the Gao group shows how polymers could help us use less energy.

Cat and Erin from the Ashfeld Group demonstrate how carbon dioxide creates acid rain.

John from the Henderson Group shows how molecules can be used to trap carbon dioxide.

John from the Henderson Group shows how molecules can be used to trap carbon dioxide.

Kristi from the Burns Group helps students "see" radioactivity using a geiger counter, a UV light, and some antique glassware.

Kristi from the Burns Group helps students “see” radioactivity using a Geiger counter, a UV light, and some antique glassware.

Kristi from the Burns Group helps students "see" radioactivity using a geiger counter, a UV light, and some antique glassware.

Kristi from the Burns Group helps students “see” radioactivity using a Geiger counter, a UV light, and some antique glassware. (Normal background radiation is around 50.)

The Student Advisory Board volunteers.

The Student Advisory Board volunteers.

A student looks through a spectrometer to see the light broken into different wave lengths.

A student looks through a spectrometer to see the light broken into different wave lengths.

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