By : Hazel Alvarez, Staff Reporter
Thirty minutes into the event and already the halls of Pomponio Science Center buzzed with activities. Almost all of the classroom were utilized and filled with students and their families.
This is the fourth year of Science Sunday at Regis University, where children to teens from the surrounding communities gather to see demonstrations of science concepts ranging from fingerprints and time to electric currents and their conductors.
Thanks to social media platforms done by Marketing and Communications and the success of previous years, this event brought about more than 600 people this year.
More than 100 students from various science classes, clubs, and groups volunteered to help run the event. Regis students from neuroscience, astronomy, physics, biology, and chemistry occupy the booths with their colorful displays attracting the eyes. There’s something for everyone, and without realizing it, you were learning beyond the usual classroom setting.
Dr. Hart, an Assistant Professor of Astronomy, was the lead organizer of Science Sunday. She’s a blur as she speeds through the hallway, checking on Regis students and smiling at the visiting kids. Inspired by a friend in charge of the astronomy night at the White House, Dr. Hart made it as an event here in Regis for her astronomy class in 2016. Instead of a final project, the students can conduct demonstrations where they can interact with the public.
“The feedback that I got from the students was so great, I thought, ‘why don’t I do this next year, but not just with astronomy,” Dr. Hart said.
Besides the astronomy lab, the Chemistry Club, TriBeta Honors Society, Physics Department, Neuroscience Department, and Society of Asian Scientists and Engineers now help make Science Sunday an impactful force that it is today. “And that’s how Science Sunday was born,” smiles Dr. Hart.
Regardless of what science departments the booths represent, the responses that the children and teens displays range from excited expressions to shy smiles. If the child or teen display a shy demeanor, the students who occupy the booths would simply invite them over, and with what started out as hesitation, ended with round eyes and little smiles as they grasp the concept in hand.
“I really love sharing science to people, specifically to astronomy,” comments Dr. Hart. “I think being able to share it in a fun way is very important. Once visitors [families and their children] realize that science is for everybody – not just science people or math people – once they realize that it’s for everybody, then I’ve done my job.”
The children and teens weren’t the only ones who were responsive; the families with them were just as equally interested in interacting with the student demonstrators and volunteers.
One father stumble walking in a line, while wearing goggles that distorts the senses of the cerebellum, which rule balance and coordination, simulating what it would be like to be drunk. The son hardly stumbles walking in a straight line, despite wearing the goggles. “He’s way better at this than me. A little concerning, if you ask me,” he laughs.
Down the hall, a mother and daughter don on latex gloves in order to touch a human brain, donated to Regis University. Respectfully, they both held the brain. “[The brain] doesn’t look heavy, but it is,” comments the mother. She trades a smile with her daughter as she hands over the brain, and her child gasps at both the weight and the cold of the brain.
“Ask a Scientist,” said Dr. Winterrowd, an Associate Professor of Psychology, helped occupy the booth, remarking that “it’s difficult to ask questions on the fly, but the kids managed it.” Kids asked topics that ranged from planets to dinosaurs, and thanks to the little brain picture underneath Dr. Winterrowd’s nametag and the brain model nearby, kids asked about the brain, too.
“Their questions were very creative,” Dr. Winterrowd continues. “One question a child asked was ‘where do the stars go during the day?’ And I just explained that the stars are there, the sun just outshines them all. I would help direct them to where they could go, like if they were interested in astronomy, I would direct them to the telescope outside. One kid asked about what does the brain feel like, and I would just say that it’s soft and heavy, and would help point them to the basement, where we had the human brain. It was great to see these kids invested at the topics in hand.”
Jivan Smith-Shively, who demonstrated the booth on behalf of his astronomy lab, remarked, “I enjoyed the [event], quite a lot; I have always liked teaching children about science, so it’s great to see the look of awe on their faces as they do the experiment.”
The booth demonstration shows the concept of space and time, with a metal ball representing the sun weighing down on top of a black fabric, which represents space and time. The marbles represent the planets, and as each one rolled, circles around the metal ball.
As each child and family member roll marble balls, Jivan and Joseph McCullough explain that this demonstrates the gravitational pull of planets (the marbles) around the sun (the metal ball). “Being able to answer questions to help them get more invested is always fun.”
At the main entrance of the Science Center, the Society of Asian Scientists and Engineers (SASE) helped with the visitor’s booth, where they pass out STEM passports designed by one of their own, Tina La. Once they filled their passports, they can come back to the booth and get their goody bags.
Tina’s sister, Melissa La, who also helped with the booth, remarked at the end, “It was such a great event! I especially love seeing all the kids smile and enjoying time with their parents!”.
Both Melissa and Tina greeted multitudes of families and their kids, explaining what the passports were, how they can get the prizes, and passing out either the goody bags or maps of the demonstrators.
“I really couldn’t have done this without the students and faculty who volunteered. Without them, this wouldn’t be able to have happen. Without the different groups helping out and contributing to Science Sunday, this wouldn’t be able to happen,” remarks Dr. Hart. “The public really likes the fact that they see the students getting excited and they see their kids getting excited, and this interaction is really important to me.”
“The meat and potatoes of what makes Science Sunday successful is that every Regis student being able to show how they love science in their own way. Whether it’s the chemistry club, the astronomy or neuroscience students. Really, at the end of the day, it’s the students that makes this event really successful,” Dr. Hart explains, smiling fondly.