By Linda Nguyen
Students interested in serving the Waco community can do so by volunteering at the Physics Circus in the Mayborn Museum Complex until Friday.
The event is hosted by the Center for Astrophysics, Space Physics and Engineering Research at Baylor as a part of Gear Up Waco, a program that encourages high school students to attain a college education.
“The goal is to give students a deeper understanding [of physics],” Jorge Carmona-Reyes, research project assistant and coordinator of the Physics Circus, said. “It’s an Aristotelian type of learning — learning by researching natural phenomena.”
This year’s topic is “Energy Quest: Discovering Sources for Energy.” Carmona-Reyes said students are learning about energy sources, such as solar and nuclear energy, in a number of different ways at the circus.
First, students are exposed to the information via a performance by professional actors. Then they move on to the “fun house,” in which physics professors, graduate students and undergraduate student volunteers further explain the material. The students are given a booklet with questions to answer. Finally, students are tested on their knowledge in a game-show-style setting in which the winner receives a small prize.
“We follow this same group of students beginning their sixth- or seventh-grade years,” Carmona-Reyes said. “Every year after that, the material is built upon with more complicated examples, so by the time they’re in 11th and 12th grades, they’re up-to-date with the newest advances in science and technology.”
Carmona-Reyes said this year is the last for the second cycle of students who are now high school juniors and seniors preparing to apply to universities. If the grant funding the program gets renewed after this year, the circus will begin again with another group of sixth- and seventh-graders.
Dr. Victor Land, a postdoctoral research associate and Physics Circus volunteer, said he has enjoyed seeing the students grow during the four years he has worked with the Physics Circus.
“I think it’s important to get away from the flat surface of a book and to a more interactive experience,” Land said. “It’s a very hands-on way to learn physics.”
Some student volunteers, such as Cypress freshman Charles Jester, hope this will encourage more students to pursue a science major.
“I think it’s important to get students into science majors — especially physics,” Jester said. “I would have liked something like this in high school.”
Although the circus is mainly geared toward high school students, Carmona-Reyes said some dates are open to home-schooled students and the public — at 12:30 p.m. Wednesday and 5:30 p.m. Thursday. The whole program lasts about three hours.
The Physics Circus began Jan. 30 and will continue until Friday. Students interested in volunteering should contact Carmona-Reyes at firstname.lastname@example.org.