Visiting Bridgeport Schoolchildren Engage in Hands-On Physics Workshops

Visiting Bridgeport Schoolchildren Engage in Hands-On Physics Workshops

students in classroom

Professor of physics Angela Biselli, PhD, facilitated a recent spring semester visit to campus in which faculty members and undergraduates performed demonstrations and ran physics workshops for young students.

Working with Urban Impact, a nonprofit organization that runs outreach programs for children who live in the PT Barnum Apartments public housing complex in Bridgeport, Conn., Professor of Physics Angela Biselli, PhD, helped facilitate a series of fun-filled spring semester physics workshops on the North Benson campus. During the visits, College of Arts & Sciences faculty members performed physics demonstrations and engaged their young guests in hands-on activities.

Dr. Biselli was inspired to have the Physics Department host this opportunity after meeting a group of middle school students from the Geraldine Clayton Magnet Academy who were on campus for a Shakespeare program run by a colleague in the English Department last fall. During one of the English class sessions, "the kids visited our labs, and we did some physics demos for them," she said. 

After some of the visiting youngsters mentioned that they have few opportunities to assist in hands-on experiments at their current school, Dr. Biselli contacted the director of Urban Impact, Bob Niedermeier, to see if he might be interested in bringing more kids over to Fairfield University, this time to learn some physics.

In all, Niedermeier and his wife ended up driving 12 schoolchildren to campus on six occasions, to participate in physics workshops organized by Dr. Biselli. Each of the six workshops was run by a Physics Department faculty member and had a a different theme: mechanics, electricity and magnetism, light and color, music and waves, fluids, and engines.

In Dr. Biselli’s electricity workshop, as an example, she generated lighting using a VanDerGraff generator and constructed small circuits. In the fluids workshop, students witnessed an explosion done with liquid nitrogen and were invited to play with a non-Newtonian fluid — one that became rigid when touched quickly and liquid when touched slowly.

“We wanted to share fun science with these kids and get them interested early on in physics,” said Dr. Biselli. “The kids were very engaged, and we could see how they became more and more confident, workshop after workshop. I was also very pleased to see so many female students interested; all of the students were enthusiastic about the experiments performed.” 

Dr. Biselli's work in the community and in inspiring the youth of today to explore physics has not gone unnoticed. Earlier this month, she received the national Sigma Pi Sigma (physics honor society) Outstanding Service Award for her service to both the Fairfield University and national physics communities.

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