Physics Dazzles Kids

Feb 262006
Authors: Ben Aaker

Kids cheered and parents smiled as lasers popped balloons and stuffed animals defied gravity at this year's Little Shop of Physics open house on Saturday in the Main Ballroom of the Lory Student Center.

The theme "It's All in Your Head," emphasized perception and asked the question: "Is it real or is it all in your head?"

An estimated 4,500 young and young at heart showed up to take part in a few of the more than 200 hands-on experiments and interactive presentations.

"Our number one goal is to show people of all ages that science is something really interesting, accessible and fun," said Brian Jones, a CSU professor and the director of the Little Shop of Physics.

Jones has been with Little Shop of Physics since it's beginning 15 years ago. Since then, undergraduate students from different backgrounds have developed hundreds of experiments that display relatively simple scientific concepts such as electricity and sound.

"Young students often think that science is something they couldn't do. They think it's too hard, it's for nerds or there's too much math," Jones said. "We want to show them that they can; the concepts are quite basic, there is a wide spectrum of people who do it, and it's fun."

CSU undergraduate volunteers put all the experiments and presentation together. Each year, students from all academic fields help develop and deliver the message that science is fun and easy to some 15,000 students at more than 50 schools in Colorado and neighboring states.

"My favorite part (of Little Shop of Physics) is working with the kids," said Daniel Whitney, a junior mechanical engineer. "It's hard to find hands-on experience like this and the opportunity to show them how easy and fun science can be is awesome."

Ten-year-old Nicolas Zweigle watched with excitement as red and green lasers bounced, bended and diffracted in an exploration of extreme light.

"I really like the dark room and how everything glows," Zweigle said. "It's really crazy."

It is the enthusiasm of children like Zweigle that makes the event evermore special for adults.

"My favorite part of the Little Shop of Physics is watching the little kids," said Ashley Penman, a freshman human development and family studies major. "Seeing the laughter and the happiness that they are experiencing through science is truly amazing."

The Little Shop of Physics also offers workshops for teachers and produces a television program called "Everyday Science" with Poudre School District Channel10.

As for future plans, Jones hopes to expand internationally and take his projects to a new audience.

Still, he is extremely grateful for the students who he works with.

"I don't think I could work with a different group of people," Jones said. "The undergrads here are amazing. I love this place."

Ben Aaker contacted at

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