SPS Internship at the American Physical Society

On June 2011, I joined 9 other physics students from all over the United States in an internship at the Society of Physics Students in College Park, Maryland. Each of the interns had a unique position within either the American Institute of Physics, the American Physical Society, the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), or the US Congress. For the next 10 weeks, I worked in the Outreach Department of the American Physical Society, producing home experiments in Thermodynamics for middle-school children.

From left to right: Heather Petroccia, Anish Chakrabarti, Binayak Kandel, Moriel Schottlender (me!), Erin Grace, Amanda Palchak, Courtney Lemon, Cabot Zabriskie, Fidele Bingwa (Mahmuda Afrin Badhan, the 10th intern, is missing from this picture)

My position in the  internship was to work on “PhysicsQuest” extension kits.


PhysicsQuest is an amazing project by the American Physical Society outreach team, lead by Rebecca Thompson. They produce a comic book “Spectra: The Teenage Superhero” that is aimed at middle school children. The idea is to deliver physical concepts through the activities in the comic. The comic also comes as a kit to schools across the country, and includes all the materials needed for the four main activities in the comic.

The activities are part of Spectra’s adventures, and the kids feel they are part of the story as they solve physics questions, and learn.

The comic book and kit comes with four major activities. All activities are meant to be done at home, or easily in a school lab settings without expensive equipment. To the four major activities join the ‘extension activities’; if a teacher (or a student) want to expand their activity set on a particular subject out of the four main activities initially given, they can go on to the online site and download the extension activities given.

That was my role; I was asked to come up with 12 extension activities – 3 extension per main activity in the main kit.

Developing Experiments

The endeavor wasn’t as easy as I initially thought. Not only was I supposed to find experiments that can be done at home (and with non-expensive materials) but I also had to make sure they’re suitable for middle-school age kids. Safe, easy and most importantly – consistent!

Internship Journal

All interns tracked their progress in a weekly journal. Instead of repeating it all, you can simply read it here: http://www.spsnational.org/programs/internships/2011/schottlender.htm



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