Northern Illinois University

NIU Office of Public Affairs

News Release

Contact: Tom Parisi, NIU Office of Public Affairs
(815) 753-363

March 7, 2005

Physics outreach program eyes new frontier

DeKalb , Ill . — The Frontier Physics program at Northern Illinois University has won a competitive grant to expand its outreach efforts, particularly to rural areas.

In conjunction with the World Year of Physics 2005, the American Physical Society awarded grants of $10,000 to Frontier Physics and 15 other “physics on the road” programs nationwide. The grants can be used for supplies and other costs associated with performing physics demonstrations.

The World Year of Physics is a United Nations-endorsed, international celebration aiming to increase public awareness of the importance of physics. The celebration coincides with the 100 th anniversary of Albert Einstein's “miraculous year,” during which he published three now-legendary articles that provide the basis for quantum theory, the theory of relativity and the theory of Brownian motion.

NIU's Frontier Physics is known for its traveling road show of eye-popping demonstrations. Physics faculty and students have made more than 280 presentations over the past three years. About 25,000 K-12 students have seen the show, which features levitating magnets, dust explosions, liquid-nitrogen dipped flowers and a vacuum-powered bazooka, made with PVC pipe and a ping pong ball.

“We'll use the grant to purchase additional materials for the Frontier Physics road show so we can do some larger demonstrations and reach students in rural areas of northern Illinois,” said Pati Sievert, Frontier Physics coordinator.

A new public address system will be purchased, and overnight travel money will be made available to undergraduate students who help lead the presentations. A portion of the funds will allow Sievert to set up the program's Haunted Physics Lab at off-campus sites.

“The haunted laboratory features hands-on learning activities in advance of Halloween, and it's been a very popular attraction for young students visiting campus,” Sievert said. “Next fall we hope to set up the laboratory at several community colleges in areas that typically might be overlooked because of their distance from DeKalb.”

Funding for the American Physical Society grants is provided by the National Science Foundation and the U.S. Department of Energy's Office of Science. The Northern Illinois Center for Accelerator and Detector Development at NIU provides the majority of funding for Frontier Physics outreach.

Other NIU outreach efforts in physics also are meeting with success. Sievert is preparing for the April 16 Physics Olympics for high school students. Last year the event attracted 95 students from 10 high schools. Frontier Physics, along with the Physics Club, also will stage a physics demonstration night on campus April 12.

For more information on NIU's Frontier Physics, visit or e-mail Pati Sievert at .