Little Shop of Physics

Freshmen wait a year to see CSU science experiments

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Ninth-grade IPS Science Flight class students Jack Verploeg, from left, Ian Anderson, Jeff Dawes, all 14, and Colorado State University graduate student Cara Cummings observe the infrared camera and motion exhibits on Tuesday at Steamboat Springs Middle School. The high school freshmen returned to the middle school to experience the Little Shop of Physics tour they missed last year because of weather.

Black became white. and clear water became black in the infrared light.

"Black reflects infrared, and water absorbs it," Colorado State University physics teacher Brian Jones said. "Infrared also makes the skin transparent. Hold your arms up to the light."

Small veins, barely visible to the naked eye, became dark, vivid lines running up and down the underside of each arm. Jones nodded his head.

The infrared experiment was one of nearly 50 Jones and his Little Shop of Physics team brought Tuesday to Steamboat Springs Middle School.

"I think it's interesting," Steamboat freshman Taylor Miller said.

On Tuesday, a wave of freshmen circulated between two rooms at the middle school.

As eighth-graders last year, the freshmen did not get to see Little Shop of Physics because weather prevented the CSU crew from traveling to Steamboat.

This year, the freshmen shuffled through the rooms, hearing, listening and feeling their way through the experiments Jones and his team of students and interns conducted.

The response from Colorado's middle school and high school students, including Steamboat's students, has been positive through the years, Jones said. He estimated this is his 10th year in Steamboat.

"This is such a cool school," Jones said.

Freshman Jake Supple said his favorite experiment involved sound. He put earphones on and spoke into a microphone. The three-second delay between the microphone and earphones made it difficult for him to concentrate and speak.

The students spent 30 minutes circulating through the experiments, summarizing each lab.

They were working to see whether the experiments dealt with matter, energy or both. Students offered personal assessments of the labs and reflections on what surprised them and what questions they had.

Charlie Leech teaches introduction to physical science and biology at the high school. He admitted physics can be an intimidating subject, but the freshmen steer clear of the math equations. They focus more on principles and concepts such as Tuesday's experiments.

"We try and use everyday objects," Little Shop of Physics presenter Sheila Ferguson said. "People think you need a pristine lab to do experiments, and you do for some things."

When using combs, mini disco balls, funnels or duct tape, however, a sanitary stainless steel countertop isn't necessary.

Before the freshmen started moving through their second room of experiments, Jones showed the students an experiment using radio waves.

Jones demonstrated how the body absorbs radio waves by using a touch lamp, which can be turned on and off by touching it.

Volunteer Genna Bradley wrapped the touch lamp cord around her body. The cord provided an uninterrupted connection between Bradley and the lamp on her head.

Bradley held hands with a second student. A third student was then able to operate the lamp simply by touching the second student.

"What happens if you add another student?" student Matt Dawes yelled out.

Success.

Students were asking questions, and that was one of the goals of Tuesday's experiments, Leech said.

- To reach Melinda Mawdsley, call 871-4208 or e-mail mmawdsley@steamboatpilot.com

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