APS News

May 2020 (Volume 29, Number 5)

Sparking the Joy of Physics at Home

By Leah Poffenberger

As millions of people are being asked to stay at home to stop the spread of COVID-19, parents are faced with the task of keeping energy-filled kids occupied while stuck in the house. Fortunately, using household items or an internet connection, it’s possible to turn the house into a DIY-lab and spark excitement about physics.

For more than a decade, APS’s PhysicsCentral has been on a mission to communicate the importance and excitement of physics with a variety of educational resources, from blog posts tackling physics news to classroom experiment kits. Each year, the PhysicsQuest program sends boxes of materials and experiment guides to middle-school classrooms all over the country, but at-home scientists can easily jump in to experimenting, too: all PhysicsQuest guides are available online, and most of the experiments are designed to use normal household items. PhysicsQuest 2019 features Chien-Shiung Wu, the “First Lady of Physics.” For comic book lovers, or anyone looking for their next read, a brand-new special issue of Spectra: The Laser Superhero**, featuring LIGO, is also available.

ice cubes home experiment
APS PhysicsQuest

One easy at-home experiment involves putting ice cubes on different materials (wood, plastic, metal, etc) and measuring how long the ice takes to melt. The APS PhysicsQuest guide has more.

Funsize Physics also offers at-home physics activities that allow scientists of all ages to explore condensed matter physics. Physicists from across the country contribute short articles, featuring stunning visuals and easy to follow explanations of cutting edge research, as well as “funsize activities” to explore physics concepts. However, Funsize Physics comes with a warning: “Funsize Physics is not responsible for any minds that are blown.”

Popular science magazine Scientific American and STEM education non-profit Science Buddies have teamed up to help parents Bring Science Home. With more than 400 science activities using household items for kids 6 to 12, Scientific American and Science Buddies offer hours of science fun without leaving the house. Try some “balloon magic” to explore Bernoulli’s principle, learn about conservation of energy with a make-your own cotton ball launcher, and more!

Speaking of science fun, students can explore physics concepts like circuits and waves through games: The Universe and More, created by 2019 PhysTEC Teacher of the Year Matthew Blackburn, offers five different educational online games. Another online resource, Girls Who Code, has made their Girls Who Code At Home Activities free to download. Popular YouTube channels like MinutePhysics, PBS Digital Studios’ Physics Girl, and SciShow’s Physics playlist can also help physics-interested kids dive into simple explanations of a variety of physics topics.

Did we miss your favorite at-home physics resource? Let us know at letters@aps.org.

APS encourages the redistribution of the materials included in this newspaper provided that attribution to the source is noted and the materials are not truncated or changed.

Editor: David Voss
Staff Science Writer: Leah Poffenberger
Contributing Correspondent: Alaina G. Levine
Publication Designer and Production: Nancy Bennett-Karasik

May 2020 (Volume 29, Number 5)

Table of Contents

APS News Archives

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Articles in this Issue
Physicists Rise to the Challenge
The April Meeting Must Go On..line
Philip Anderson 1923–2020
The Topical Group on Precision Measurements and Fundamental Constants
PhysicsQuest Expands Online with Help from the Eucalyptus Foundation
Understanding the Dynamic Climate System
Wikipedia Editing Course Gives a Voice to Women and Minorities in Physics
Sparking the Joy of Physics at Home
This Month in Physics History
Office of Government Affairs
FYI: Science Policy News from AIP
The Back Page