UCF Physics

Outreach

Several Physics faculty members engage in activities with the Orange and Seminole County public schools through presentations in classes, working one-on-one with K-12 faculty, and hosting high school students in their laboratories and research groups. A large number of such students continue to receive awards at local school competitions and science fairs. Faculty members like Thomas Brueckner help judge local annual science fairs (at St. Luke’s Lutheran School in Oviedo, Florida, in Brueckner’s case).

Enrique del Barco has created an interactive on-line blog designed to act as a bridge between the scientific research performed within UCF and elsewhere in the Orlando area (including industry) and K-12 students of the Orlando area interested in participating in any of the existing projects. All posts and pages are offered both in English and Spanish so we can reach students within the Hispanic minority of our community, with the hope to get them interested in science.

Josh Colwell runs the Center for Microgravity Research and Education that runs teacher training workshops in gravity, kinematics, and Newton’s laws for local K-12 teachers. The Center’s website provides interactive tools for teachers and students to use in the classroom as well as videos and simulations.

With the help of SPS members, Archana Dubey has initiated hands-on activities to girls from 7th grade from Orange County Schools in a program organized by the Women’s Studies Center. The success of the program has encouraged us to make it a regular event. Plans are in place for such hands-on sessions on the first Saturday morning of each month (in conjunction with SPS activities). Josh Colwell, Yanga Fernandez, and Joe Harrington give presentations at local schools on gravity, the solar system, and planetary systems in general. Dr. Campins has helped recruit and supervise astronomy tutors who work at UCF’s Student Academic Resource Center (SARC), a free tutoring program. Another popular outreach activity is the open house at the Robinson Observatory when Planetary Science students and faculty engage in the public in viewing and discussions. See the latest schedule of open houses here .

Yanga Fernandez runs an astronomy outreach program through UCF’s campus observatory, Robinson Observatory, with the help of many of the department’s graduate students and the Astronomy Society. Each semester, hundreds of UCF students and members of the general public visit the observatory through our weekly “Knights Under The Stars” stargazing program. Many Scout troops and grade-school classes also visit over the course of the academic year for special programs that we create. We also make off-site visits to bring telescopic views of the night sky to local schools, parks, and science-related festivals. In a typical year the Robinson Observatory outreach program brings astronomy to well over a thousand people.

Of particular note are the efforts of Dr. Jeff Bindell who has been working with the Florida High Tech Corridor council (techPATH) and our physics department. He has developed/delivered a number of “Physics Day” programs to 6th graders most of whom stem from underprivileged backgrounds. Dr. Bindell is also working with UF and USF to deliver similar programs to counties more remote from Orlando. The students visit the Physics Department in the morning where they are shown the relationship between game simulations and physics. In the afternoon they visit a company that is engaged in simulation so that they can see the real world that is associated with a scientific or high-tech career. Working with the Florida High Tech Corridor Council, he has given numerous presentations to Middle School and High School teachers on the Simulation Industry (techCAMPS). In 2008 he developed a new program – Information Technology techCAMP – and the first delivery took place in January 2009 at Polk Community College. In cooperation with the Orlando Science Center, back in their schools the teachers’ students can do on-line tutorials in scanning electron microscope (SEM) operations and operate an SEM at the OSC remotely from their classroom. These programs are part of a continuing effort to increase these teachers’ knowledge of high tech careers from which their students can benefit.

Physics faculty and graduate students also engage in outreach activities through the GK-12 program, which also provides fellowships for graduate students. As means of spreading scientific thinking to the general public, Dr. Costas Efthimiou has presented a number of invited public lectures nationally and internationally on the topic of “Science vs Pseudoscience”. His work on the subject has obtained high exposure in world media, enhancing the recognition of the department and UCF at a popular level

SPS members continue to carry our exemplary outreach activities at UCF and in the Orlando area. They have received several awards from the National SPS for their phenomenal hard work, dedication and achievements.