High schools students learn about Physical Sciences @ Mac

By Lynn Easson-Irvine, December 12, 2007

    A high school student conducts an experiment in the chemistry lab. Photo by Susan Bubak. Below, students observe a magnetic levitation model train. Photo by Caroline Burgess.
For the past two years, the Department of Physics & Astronomy has offered Physics@Mac activities to high school physics classes during exam periods in December and April when teaching labs are free.

This year, the department has joined forces with the Department of Chemistry to offer Physical Sciences@Mac activities, a broader program of hands-on labs and demonstrations of interest to both high school physics and chemistry classes.

"The Faculty of Science is very proud to once again be able to showcase an outstanding example of a hands-on outreach program," said Alison Sills, associate dean of studies at the Faculty of Science. "The Departments of Physics & Astronomy and Chemistry have done a phenomenal job of utilizing time and space during our exam period, and by doing so, have made a significant impact on the experience for secondary school students who have come here to have fun and gain direction in their future academic choices in science."

The focus of this program is for students to participate in labs, demonstrations and tours, including:

  • Hands-on physics lab

  • Hands-on chemistry lab

  • Demonstrations of Milikan oil drop and electron mass-to-charge ratio experiments
  • Tour of upper level chemistry labs, instrumentation and chemical reaction demonstrations
  • Demonstration of magnetic levitation model train and explanation of superconductivity
  • Soft condensed matter demonstrations
  • Laser demonstration
  • Nuclear reactor tour

    Activities started on Tuesday, Dec. 4 and conclude on Friday, Dec. 14. More than 400 students will participate over the two-week period. Some schools are participating for the first time while others are returning schools that have participated in previous years at one or more outreach activities.

    "The enthusiastic response by teachers to these activities suggests that we are filling a niche in terms of available outreach programs," said Caroline Burgess, outreach co-ordinator for the Departments of Chemistry, Mathematics & Statistics and Physics & Astronomy. "The Faculty of Science at McMaster University has a great reputation for nurturing the appreciation of science in the minds of youth through various forms of outreach, and we are fortunate to have a great deal of Faculty, undergraduate and graduate students, as well as staff who are instrumental in creating and implementing wonderful programs to share with students."

    During the April 2008 exam period from April 14 to 25, secondary school students will be back to again experience Physical Sciences@Mac activities.

    For more information, please contact Burgess at burgcar@mcmaster.ca.