University of Minnesota
University of Minnesota

Go to chemistry home page.


Energy and U/Physics Force offer exciting, fun day of science

Energy and U and Physics Force, two University of Minnesota College of Science & Engineering (CSE) high energy, informative, and popular outreach programs are offering a special extended learning experience for a group of 75 6th graders, Tuesday, Jan. 13.

Students from Osseo Public Schools’ Palmer Lake Elementary School will have an opportunity to see both shows, have lunch with chemical, physics and electrical engineering undergraduate students, and visit either a physics or a chemistry laboratory.

Both Energy and U and Physics Force are offering shows, Jan. 12-16. Together, they are bringing approximately 5,000 students to the University of Minnesota campus daily, for a total of more than 25,000 students during the week. Energy and U, which is targeted at students in 3rd grade through 6th grade, takes place at Smith Hall. Physics Force shows, which are targeted at students in kindergarten through 12th grade, are at the Northrop Auditorium.  The 30-year-old Physics Force and the 8-year-old Energy and U are focused on exposing students to how interesting science is.

With both programs on campus for the first time in five years, Energy and U Director David Blank and Physics Force Co-Director Shaul Hanany worked together to offer a daylong learning experience to a group of students, reserving tickets at their shows and organizing tours of the laboratories.

“We thought, ‘Why not have a double whammy?’” said Hanany. “I hope that this double exposure to both shows, including meeting university students and visiting the labs, will have a lasting impression showing how much fun science can be. If 15 years from now, the students remember this visit and that science can be fun, we have achieved our goal.”

These distinctive and highly entertaining shows, which frequently involve comedy, flames and explosions, demonstrate that science and engineering can be interesting, understandable and fun. They are designed to generate enthusiasm among young students, and promote science and engineering.

“Coming to campus, meeting professors and students, and seeing how exciting science and engineering can be has a lasting a profound effect on many of these students,” said Blank. “As one of our current CSE undergraduates put it, ‘I went to an Energy and U show in 5th or 6th grade and I remember thinking it was the coolest thing I ever saw. Definitely, got me interested in science—seven years later, here I am.’”

Kelsi Klaers, CSE outreach coordinator, is organizing the lunch with undergraduate students. She said that programs like Energy & U and Physics Force are important to CSE's outreach goals of encouraging interest and building aptitude in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) disciplines among Minnesota's students.”

 “The opportunity to welcome young students to campus for lunch with undergraduate students and lab tours achieves CSE's goal of helping students visualize themselves as future college students,” said Klaers.

Outreach to schools with high populations of underserved students such as students of color and students living in poverty are priorities for both programs. Both Energy and U and the Physics Force offer financial assistance to offset bus transportation costs.

Professor David Blank, director of the Energy and U program, sets off a rocket for one of the show's demonstrations. In the foreground is Joseph Franek, Department of Chemistry lecture demonstration director, who designs and prepares all of the demonstrations and explosions for the show. Photo by Ronda Zurn.