Saturday, November 19, 2011

Plasma lessons, crushed marshmallows and all

By John DeLooper

Today, Friday is the end of the conference. The last session concludes at about 12:30 p.m. There will be some additional satellite meetings but most folks will be leaving today and tomorrow (if we can get out with the expected snow storm…)

This was the second day of the Plasma Expo. It takes a lot of effort to get the students to this event. Teachers need to make the arrangements including organizing bus transportation and collecting permission slips. The plasma educators from the various laboratories arrange and run the Plasma Expo. In addition to the exhibitors, there are a number of individuals greeting the bus and escorting the students into the exhibit hall. They are the unsung heroes of the Plasma Expo! They help make sure that we track the students through the convention center.

More than 1,000 students attended the Expo today. As usual, our volunteers did a superb job. It’s not always easy explaining plasma to a middle school student and how the plasma in a fluorescent tube can be 10,000 degrees. It’s always wonderful when you see the look of amazement on a student's face when he or she sees something unusual (like crushed marshmallows or a Jacob’s ladder) and absorbs the scientific message. That makes our day.

Although the conference ended at 12:30 p.m., our Expo went beyond, til 2 p.m. At the conclusion, we took down our display, packaged our exhibit materials, and placed them on skids. Our graduate students helped the Science Education staff to dismantle the display. Although we try to mimic the great work our shipping folks did in sending the material to us, we hope that the skids get back to the lab safely…. we’ll know in about a week!

My thanks to the Science Education staff, our scientists, post-docs, and graduate students for all of their help in a successful educational outreach effort!
--John DeLooper is the head of outreach and best practices at PPPL.

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