Clark student shows two children and their parent a science experiment

Physics students use air, bubbles and more to teach kids about science

May 4, 2017

As many educators and parents know, one of the best ways to teach kids about science is by letting them experiment. So when undergraduate students from Clark’s Physics Department held a workshop recently at the annual Cambridge Science Festival, they didn’t lecture kids about the concepts of elasticity, surface tension and light; they let them play with bubbles, gels and even a vortex cannon that “shoots” rings of air.

Physics students standing at table
From left, Sheila Ford ’20, Santiago Deambrosi ’17,
Gregory Jones ’19, Muhammad Kasule ’17, Lubaina
Selani ’17, Yoni Hazan ’18, Professor Arshad Kudrolli,
Camille Bales ’19, graduate student Ben Allen, Max
Newman ’17 and Michael O’Connor ’20 at the
Cambridge Science Festival.

Physics Professor and Chair Arshad Kudrolli and graduate student Ben Allen accompanied nine undergraduates to the science festival: Santiago Deambrosi ’17, Max Newman ’17, Lubaina Selani ’17, Muhammad Kasule ’17, Yoni Hazan ’18, Camille Bales ’19, Gregory Jones ’19, Sheila Ford ’20 and Michael O’Connor ’20.

“The most popular experiment had to have been the vortex cannon,” Newman says. “We used a fog machine to show the kids how air being forced out of a container will produce rings of turbulent air.”

Other experiments, he said, included hydrogels, spheroids of “gel” which, when submerged in water, appear to disappear. The students also demonstrated resonance frequencies; magnetism, using magnetic bars and iron filings; and more.

The students took part in the April 15 Science Carnival and Robot Zoo at the Cambridge Public Library. The Cambridge Science Festival featured science, technology, engineering, art and math events from April 14-23. The annual event’s founding collaborators are MIT, Harvard University, City of Cambridge, and Museum of Science, Boston.

The festival inspires kids to pursue science – and brings out “the little kid” in parents, Newman says. “Every kid and parent there is eager and willing to learn,” he says. “The festival is also a great learning experience for physics students presenting the demonstrations. It pushes them to explain the demonstrations on a level the kids can understand.”

Above: Sheila Ford ’20 and Michael O’Connor ’20 demonstrate physics to a family at the Cambridge Science Festival.