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By Michael Lucibella
On February 9, 2015, APS announced the winners of this year’s Outreach Mini-Grant Awards. Eight teams from across the country will receive up to $10,000 each for projects that bring the excitement of physics to the general public, including two associated with the International Year of Light (IYL) 2015.
“The idea is to encourage physicists to do more outreach and interact with the public,” said Rebecca Thompson, head of APS Outreach. “Outreach is an important part of everyone’s scientific pursuits.” The main aim is to fund individuals and groups that may not have been able to start their programs without help.
The awardees include Emily Edwards of the Joint Quantum Institute for hosting “Schrodinger Session: Science for Science Fiction,” a writing seminar at the University of Maryland that teaches physics to science fiction authors, and Brian Nord of Fermilab’s “Cosmic Nightly News” for a series of satirical skits about astrophysics in the vein of “The Colbert Report.”
Agnes Mocsy, of the Pratt Institute’s project, “Science Behind Bars,” will work with female inmates at Rikers Island jail in New York and share personal stories, social science research, and science history to overcome stereotypes and encourage better personal choices after the inmate’s release.
The IYL-branded projects include one coordinated by Aimee Gunther of the University of Waterloo — “Light at the Museum,” a hands-on exhibit about light for THEMUSEUM, an interactive children’s museum in Ontario.
Another project, “Captain, We have Matter Matters,” is an interactive sci-fi themed play about spectrometry, organized by Stipo Sentic of the New Mexico Institute of Mining and Technology. “We’re especially excited to fund two proposals connected with the International Year of Light,” Thompson said.
This is the sixth year that APS has offered the Outreach Mini-Grants, and this year APS is funding 11 projects, more than in any previous year. “We received an NSF grant, so we were able to fund twice the number of grants as we have in past years,” Thompson said.
Other grant-winners this year include Enrico Fonda of New York University, who is putting together “Creative Turbulance,” a multimedia art exhibition of five science and art collaborations. Tatiana Erukhimova of Texas A&M University is producing 20 short episodes of a physics reality show. And the University of Minnesota’s Dan Dahlberg is producing a series of videos that highlight the benefits of energy-efficient technologies and the science behind them.
Chris Discenza of The Physics Factory, a non-profit team of scientists and educators, is taking his “Physics Bus” on the road to bring science demos to underserved communities in Florida. UCLA’s Jia Ming Chen of “Nanoscience at the Mall” will set up booths with science demonstrations at high-traffic shopping-mall locations to reach a wide swath of people. Beatriz Gonzalez of the University of Valladolid in Spain will visit schools and use popular movies to introduce physics concepts to a range of age groups.
According to Thompson, each year there seems to be a wider variety in the kinds of projects receiving grants. “I think this is the first year we’ve had such a range,” she said. “They’re wonderfully all over the map.”
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