Physics Circus Sparks Science Enthusiasm In Area Students

  • News Photo 1342
    Two students watch gravitational energy in action.
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    A student studies heat energy expanding air and causing ping-pong balls to bounce.
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    A hair-raising experience--the VandeGraaff generator conducts static electricity.
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    An icosidodecahedron expands and contracts through gravitational pull.
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    Actors watch a simulated tornado during the theater production.
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    Electricity arcs to the metal perimeter of the "Eye of Thor."
April 29, 2003

by Judy Long

The fourth annual Physics Circus presented a high-energy science demonstration for middle and high school students April 14-29 on the Texas State Technical College (TSTC) campus in Waco. Designed by Baylor University's Center for Astrophysics, Space Physics, and Engineering Research (CASPER), the popular science exhibition instills a love for science in students at an early age.

Middle and high school students watched a humorous, fast-paced theater performance under black lights, which included the generation of more than a million volts of electricity from a six-foot-tall gadget called a Tesla coil. They also "heard" an electromagnetic device called a theremin, which emitted high- and low-pitched sounds. Other demonstrations included a VandeGraaff generator, which uses static electricity to cause an individual's hair to stand on end when touched, a hand battery and displays of magnetic, heat, light, gravitational and electron energy.

"Educators have been concerned for a long time that our country recruits foreign scientists to fill its research needs," said CASPER director Truell Hyde, who also serves as vice provost for research and professor of physics at Baylor. "We need to encourage more American students to train in the sciences."

The Physics Circus is one of several projects that are part of GEAR UP Waco, an initiative focused on preparing at-risk students academically and socially for college funded through a $6 million grant by the U.S. Department of Education. GEAR UP Waco serves as a community catalyst to assure an increase in students who pursue advanced and enrichment courses, pass the state exam and continue their education beyond the high school level. Partners in the GEAR UP Waco project are Baylor, TSTC, McLennan Community College, Communities in Schools/McLennan County Youth Collaboration, Waco ISD, The Waco Foundation and the City of Waco.

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