April 16, 2012

Physics Fair forecast: Lots of bright lights, loud noises, rockets and more

The Department of Physics and Astronomy is hosting its ninth annual Physics Fair from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Saturday, April 21, coinciding with the Spring Fair celebration on the Homewood campus. Events will take place in the Bloomberg Center for Physics and Astronomy.

The fair will feature individual and team competitions for local students, as well as a physics-themed scavenger hunt and demonstrations by Johns Hopkins physicists, graduate students and undergraduates. The idea is to bring physics to the community in a fun, accessible way.

The fair started within a program called QuarkNet, organized by the National Science Foundation to encourage university professors working in elementary particle physics research to incorporate high school teachers into their research programs. The teachers who became involved suggested that a physics fair would be a good way to connect with students and the public.

Among the highlights of Saturday’s event:

• Professor Extraordinaire Shows, 12:15 and 4:30 p.m. Johns Hopkins physicist Peter Armitage and his assistants will give a demonstration that will include explosions, fantastic displays, bright lights and loud noises.

• Elementary-Middle School Science Bowl Competitions, 1:30 p.m. Teams of up to four elementary school–age students (grades 1 through 8) will compete to answer general science–related questions in a quiz show format. This activity will be held in Schafler Auditorium, which is equipped with a system allowing contestants to press buttons to select their answers. Winning teams receive trophies for their schools.

• High School Science Bowl and Physics Bowl Competitions, 2:15 and 3 p.m. Teams of up to four high school students will compete in answering physics- and science-related questions in a quiz show format, with results displayed in real time. Winning teams will receive prizes, such as trophies and books.

• Construction Contest, 3:45 p.m. Participants of all ages will have 30 minutes to build a structure according to instructions given that day. All materials will be provided.

Throughout the day, other activities—including the making of frozen ice cream using liquid nitrogen and a balloon rocket contest—will be held. The Morris W. Offit Telescope, located on the roof of the Bloomberg Center, will be open, allowing visitors to observe sunspots and the activities of the sun’s corona using a special filter. Several of the research laboratories in the Bloomberg Center also will be open, and lectures and displays about the Hubble Space Telescope program will be offered.