Out and About
(left) Ben Powell, a third year physics student, demonstrating how to sail a yacht.
(right) PhD student Tim Byrnes and primary school students investigating gravitational motion at Science in the City.

There is a growing need to let the wider community know what is going on in the School of Physics. Staff of the School give public lectures, publish their work in the popular media, and participate in public debates. In addition, during 2001, the School of Physics participated in several major science displays organised by the Faculty of Science’s Outreach Centre.

The first of these was Science in the City, which was held at the Australian Museum in May. This event was the largest activity of 2001 Science Week, and was a collaborative display between UNSW, University of Sydney, UTS and the Australian Museum. The School contributed a display of interactive Physics exhibits, demonstrating everyday physical phenomena including buoyancy, the Bernoulli effect and gravitational motion. This hands-on display was popular with all the visitors. Over the week, some 16, 000 primary and secondary students, and members of the public visited Science in the City.

UNSW was the major partner in the Australian stopover of the Volvo Ocean Race Around the World. During December, the Faculty of Science set up a free exhibition in the Volvo Ocean Sydney Stopover Village at Darling Harbour, demonstrating aspects of science relating to sailing yachts and the ocean. The School of Physics contributed displays demonstrating how yachts can maximise their speed by changing the angle of their sails, and how satellites can be placed in orbit around the earth to allow the yachts to use the Global Positioning System to track their course. Nearly 20,000 people visited the display before the yachts left for Hobart on Boxing Day.

In addition to providing exhibits, the School employed undergraduate and postgraduate physics students to staff these displays. They helped visitors use the experiments, explained the science behind them and answered a huge variety of physics-related questions! This experience gave students the opportunity to develop their public speaking and communication skills. In this way we are training future scientists who will be able to share their discoveries and enthusiasm with the rest of the world.

Susan Hagon

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