[media-credit id=24 align=”alignright” width=”300″][/media-credit]At the Physics Open House held at Weber State University, students said they expected to see everything from soap bubbles filled with natural gas being lit on fire to a professor sandwiched between two beds of nails. However, one of the most notable outcomes of the event on Oct. 14 was made evident when children and teenagers expressed their desire to enroll in the science program at WSU.
Mitchell Evans, a junior high school student who is planning to be an inventor, said he gained a newfound enthusiasm for WSU.
“Now I’m actually thinking about (attending WSU) because they have a lot of physics things here,” Evans said. “I didn’t know they had physics . . . I’m probably going to go to Weber.”
Due to the programs offered through the College of Science, other junior high students present at the event said they would attend WSU as well.
“It’s one of my expectations (to come to WSU),” said junior high student Jose Parra. “(The open house) makes me want to get a little bit into science.”
Bradyn Hougge, who plans to study engineering, said he would like to attend WSU due to the “wide range of things you can . . . learn about here.”
Close to 600 other children, WSU students and members of the community packed the Lind Lecture Hall, exploring more than 20 different shows and hands-on activities, such as “Smash It,” for which people were challenged to build a machine with pulleys and various metal parts to crush a grape.
Stacy Palen, an associate physics professor who was in charge of the event, described the night as “chaos.” She said she observed people running around covered in bubble solution. Palen said the goal of the event was to open the community’s eyes to the world of physics and show them “how fun (it) can really be, and how much physics is all around them every day.”
“Everyone in the department had a feeling of pride and satisfaction at our success in sharing the joy of doing physics with the community,” said Brad Carroll, chair of the physics department.
Although Palen said she was also pleased with the turnout, there were a couple of unexpected and surprising incidents she said she was not anticipating. The Circus of Physics, a show performed much like the comedic magic act of Penn and Teller, declared on the Physics Open House program that the professors “risk their lives for your amusement.”
“I was a little unnerved,” Palen said, when she recalled physics professors Colin Inglefield and Adam Johnston filling several dishes with natural gas and proceeding to light them on fire.
Their final act, however, was a true “reminder that some of these things we do are really dangerous,” Johnston said.
Donning a face shield, Inglefield had laid down on a bed of nails, with another nail bed resting facedown on his torso. Johnston then placed a cinder block onto the top bed of nails. Then, picking up a sledgehammer, he swung it down onto the cinder block. According to Palen, the cinder block was supposed to break, absorbing the impact. It only gave way with a slight crack, however, and Palen said she heard the air get knocked out of Inglefield.
“Honestly, I don’t think you can print what I said inside my head,” Johnston said. “. . .We joke around about the possibility that we could hurt one another, but we also make sure that we know what we’re doing and take the right precautions.”
Inglefield said he was “perfectly safe.” He said, however, that “I wasn’t in real danger, but it does hurt a little bit when it bounces like that.”
Other popular activities were “Laser-Targeting,” for which people directed lasers with mirrors, the planetarium shows and professor Ron Galli’s show, in which he played with electricity and revealed how cats always land on their feet.
Palen attributed the availability of many of the open house’s activities to the sponsorship provided by Westinghouse Electric Company, including a popular 5-foot long, remote-controlled flying shark. She revealed that, for next year’s open house, there might be a capture-the-flag type of competition involving more of the flying fish.
For more activities offered by the WSU College of Science, Palen said the public is welcome to rent the planetarium or attend Science Saturdays, which are held on the second Saturday of every month. To learn more, students can visit www.weber.edu/COS.