Monday, 23 May 2011

Lab Tours

Every so often, we give labs tours to high school students. Usually they have an interest in science or are part of a special program. I think walking into a lab like mine can be a little overwhelming for a lot of them. Explaining the physics of what I do is also a little tricky because it's not a topic at all covered in high school, but I do my best to draw analogies with ideas they are familiar with. Some students definitely get more than others. If they are totally quiet, I get the feeling that they didn't understand anything. I consider it to be a good sign if they ask questions!

A few weeks ago, a group of such students came to the lab for a tour. They were part of a group of minority students gifted in science - the kind of kids who will hopefully study science at university. I talked to them a little bit about what it's like to do a PhD (something they didn't know much about), and how it's a lot more practical than studying, doing assignments and taking exams. I also mentioned teamwork. Experimental physics is usually not an isolated venture; it's very common to work in groups of 3 or 4 people on the same project. In my explanation, I happened to say that me and a few other people built up the experimental setup, which involved a wide range of skills.

One girl cut me off.

Girl: You mean you built this yourself??!!
Me: Well, me and some other people. I didn't do it all myself by any means.
Girl: Wow!
Me: ...
Girl: Can you make a TV??
Me: That's more of an electronics engineering thing. Maybe I could assemble a TV, but I wouldn't know how to design all the electronics to make it work.
Girl: Can you make a boom box???

Impress teenagers with your physics skillz. Make a boom box.

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