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Last Fall, the APS outreach department launched a mini-grant program to promote creative outreach activities by APS members, and called for proposals. In February, after all the entries were evaluated by the APS Committee on Informing the Public, the recipients were announced. Altogether six programs were funded, out of more than 100 proposals received. Each successful program will receive up to $10,000 to support its activities.
“The idea of the mini-grant program is to help APS members start their own outreach projects,” said Becky Thompson, head of public outreach at APS.
“This time we looked for proposals that were innovative and different,” Thompson said. “A lot of times when you think of outreach, you think of demo shows and we wanted to get away from that.” Thompson also added that the committee was looking especially at proposals that use the media to reach out to more than just students in elementary school.
One of the successful proposals, by Ixlan Communications and the University of Texas at El Paso, is for their “Hispanic Physics Radio Education Project.” The program will produce a series of one- and two-minute long radio stories about physics in both English and Spanish. They will distribute the pieces to English and Spanish language radio stations in markets across the country, as well as post the stories as downloadable podcasts that can be accessed by the general public and educators.
“The main idea is that Hispanics don’t have too many role models to get inspired about studying science,” said Jorge Lopez, a professor at the University of Texas at El Paso. “It’s going to be composed of capsules that will be distributed to many radio stations showcasing Hispanic scientists and telling what they do.”
Lopez has done work with Spanish language radio programs in the past. For 15 years, he helped produce “Universo,” a radio segment for Spanish radio about space and astronomy.
Another program is the “Full Body Physics Project” which incorporates videogame systems in teaching physics to a youth audience. The team will develop a videogame where understanding the physics of the universe is critical to beating the game. Each environment of the game would be modeled around a physics concept, such as electricity, mechanics, aerodynamics and even nanoscale assembly. The videogame will operate on Microsoft Xbox 360 Kinect, one of the best-selling consoles currently available. The game will be freely distributed through the console’s online marketplace, providing access to more than 20 million registered users.
Other programs include a contest called “Flip for Physics,” which give students flip cameras to interview researchers and produce a short video based on that interview. The students selected with the best entries will win the flip cameras. Another contest, “The Science of Every Day Materials,” will distribute kits with raw materials for students to use their ingenuity to create their own science fair projects based on the physics of fluids and granular materials. The winning projects will then go on display at the Springfield Science Museum in Massachusetts. The “Einstein on your iPhone” project will produce a series of video podcasts showing how the technology in a mobile phone can trace its roots to basic research.
The first APS grants for outreach were awarded in 2005 during the World Year of Physics, celebrating the centennial anniversary of “Einstein’s Miracle Year.” The program was revived in 2010 for LaserFest, celebrating the 50th anniversary of the first working laser, and is now a pilot program with funding for the next three years.
Information about all 6 of the grant recipients can be found on PhysicCentral, the APS website for the public.
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Editor: Alan Chodos