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ASU Physics Group Wins National Awards

February 14, 2012

The Angelo State University chapter of the Society of Physics Students (SPS) has been honored with a Marsh W. White Award and corresponding grant from the SPS National Office.

The ASU group will use the $300 grant to help fund a new after-school project in conjunction with the San Angelo YMCA titled “P.A.S.S.: Physics After School Special.”  The SPS will host about 30 second-fifth graders from the YMCA After School Program for four on-campus physics lab programs and then a special physics demonstration and P.A.S.S. Party that will include cake, liquid nitrogen ice cream and a planetarium show.   The lab programs will address optics, low temperature physics, acoustics and sound, and lasers.  Each participating student will also receive a free T-shirt. 

This is the third Marsh W. White Award for the Angelo State SPS.  The first came in 2003 and provided start-up funds for the chapter’s Peer Pressure Team, which annually performs physics outreach programs for K-12  students both locally and statewide.  The second award came in 2007 and helped fund production of a physics demonstration DVD and printed support materials for the Peer Pressure Team’s outreach activities.

The award is named in honor of Marsh W. White for his long years of service to Sigma Pi Sigma, the national physics honor society, where he served on the board from 1930-90.  The awards are given to SPS projects designed to promote interest in physics among students and the public. 

Three Angelo State SPS members also received an Outstanding Presentation Award from the SPS National Office at the 2012 Annual Winter Meeting of the American Association of Physics Teachers (AAPT) Feb. 5-8 in Ontario, Calif. 

Ethan Gully, Blake McCracken and David To presented their research at the meeting.  They also served as reporters for the SPS National Office, garnering interviews with authors Brian Green and Kip Thorne.  Green wrote Fabric of the Cosmos, the basis for a four-part series of the same title that aired on the PBS program “Nova” in November.  Thorne is a world-renowned expert on black holes, wormholes and time travel, and is a long-time colleague of Stephen Hawking and Carl Sagan.  He is the author of Black Holes and Time Warps: Einstein’s Outrageous Legacy, and has provided theoretical physics expertise to several past and future Hollywood movies dealing with time travel, including “Contact,” “The Chicago Fire” and “Interstellar.” 

Dr. Toni Sauncy, Angelo State SPS faculty advisor, also gave an invited presentation at the AAPT meeting on the ASU chapter’s outreach and public engagement activities.