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Wednesday, August 30, 2017

KS NSF EPSCoR extends AMO Outreach to Middle School Students attending ESU's Summer Scholars Program

  This summer, Emporia State University’s (ESU) Summer Scholars Program visited the James R. Macdonald Atomic, Molecular and Optical (AMO) Physics Laboratory at Kansas State University (KSU), as part of an outreach extension effort funded by the Kansas NSF EPSCoR Track 2 Grant Imaging and Controlling Ultrafast Dynamics of Atoms, Molecules, and Nanostructures. The ESU Summer Scholars Program invites area middle school students to a 3-day STEM Program designed to provide hands-on activities and learning experiences to motivate students to pursue math and science careers.
Students touring one of the many laser labs
housed in the J.R. Macdonald Laboratory
 The program also takes students on field-trips where they can see STEM research and careers in action. Dr. Marvin Harrell and Dr. Betsy Yanik, from the ESU Department of Mathematics and Economics have headed up the program for the past 5 years, with the help of Dr. Jorge Ballester, ESU Department of Physical Sciences.
   This year, ten summer scholars studied exponential growth using a bucket and water and exponential decay using M&Ms. They also looked at sun spots, watched a 3-D printer work, tested the laws of motion and “why it’s important to not get caught up in experimental bias when conducting experiments.”
   Because of Dr. Yanik’s collaboration with Dr. Carlos Trajellos, former Associate Professor of Physics at KSU, who actively participated in the Si Se Puede Hacer Matematicas y Ciencias (Yes, I can do mathematics and science) program that Dr. Yanik sponsors in the Fall, she decided it would be interesting to take the Summer Scholars on a field-trip to the AMO J.R. Macdonald Lab. Dr. Yanik described experience saying, “While there the kids spoke with faculty and college students about their research involving lasers, fiber optics and high-speed photography.”  Students also visited some of the KSU engineering labs. According to Yanik, the students enjoyed the field-trip and the whole experience very much.

Education and outreach funding for the physics teacher workshop was provided by the Kansas and Nebraska NSF EPSCoR Track 2 Grant #1430519 titled: "Imaging and Controlling Ultrafast Dynamics of Atoms, Molecules, and Nanostructures."  The grant's educational objectives are designed to enhance STEM education in Kansas by supporting activities that will lead to an expanded STEM workforce or prepare a new generation for STEM careers in the areas of atomic/molecular/optical science.