OHS Physics class with FSU students Nate and Alex in back and their Formula One Car frame in the foreground.

Onekama Physics Students Tour MSU and FSU Science Programs

In her continued efforts to help her students make sense of the complex information in the pages of their Physics textbooks, Onekama High School teacher Laurie Blevins planned a unique field trip.

During a very full day, OHS Physics students were given insight into two different aspects of the field – from the study of microscopic particles of nuclear physics, to the design of Formula One racing cars by mechanical engineers. The field trip took place on Tuesday, April 3, 2012, and included stops at two Michigan universities.

The day began at Michigan State University with a tour of the National Superconducting Cyclotron Lab (NSCL). NSCL is a world-leading laboratory for rare isotope research and nuclear science education. The facility serves more than 700 researchers from 100 institutions in 35 countries.
[Picture from NSCL website -- Norval Mercer (middle) with Henry Blosser (right), work on the K50 cyclotron in the mid-1960's.]

Nuclear physics research began at MSU in 1958. Students learned about the major contributions that have been made in the fields of nuclear structure, nuclear astrophysics, heavy-ion reaction mechanisms, accelerator physics, beam dynamics and experimental techniques. NSCL also is the source of innovations that improve lives, including nuclear therapy for cancer patients.

At NSCL, Onekama students were led into a large auditorium by their tour guide, Zach Constan, who took them on a fascinating journey of the history and future of nuclear science at MSU. The presentation was interactive and engaging -- complete with liquid nitrogen being thrown out on the floor at the feet of the students and poured over a piece of ceramic. The ceramic is normally not charged, but when “super-cooled,” it became magnetic and Zach “floated” a metal disc above it, to the students’ amazement.

“The cyclotron is an atom smasher, and creates rare isotopes that don’t exist in nature,” explained OHS Junior Kelly Koon. “This also helps create other important advancements in many fields -- like cell phone memory chips, and x-rays.”

Added Junior Emily Barnard, “When we saw all the giant magnets and detectors and accelerators, it was so crazy to think about how those enormous machines are necessary to move and study particles that we can’t even see with microscopes. I have been contemplating research Chemistry and possibly Physics as a future career, and it was interesting to meet people who are actually in that line of work.”

After the dynamic demonstration in which students learned about particle beams being produced, accelerated, smashed, and eventually captured and studied, they were able to tour the facility which employs over 500 people.

“It was immense and awe-inspiring to see the sheer size of the superconducting magnets and traps which are used to conduct these amazing experiments with particles that are travelling at over half the speed of light and are so very tiny,” said Blevins.

“I was hoping that, if nothing else, my students would be exposed to a part of science they knew little about, but is becoming a very hot topic for continued research in our ever-changing world,” added Blevins, discussing her goals for the field trip. “Quantum Physics is a very exciting field right now, and with the LHC in Europe and talk of the ‘God’ particle existence, I want my students to be critical thinkers who have had exposure to as much ground-breaking science that is virtually in their backyard, so to speak, in being at MSU.”

The next stop for the day was Ferris State University, with a visit to their Mechanical Engineering Technology Department. The director there, Dr. Charles Drake, graciously greeted students in one of his design classrooms and introduced them to several students who are members of the Formula Car Design Team.

Alex Backe, a junior design team member, showed the students a block of aluminum he was using to design a bracket for the wheels of the car. The part was already half-machined out of the block, and he used his design software to show the students how he could analyze everything about the part before he decided on the machining.

Next, students were invited to visit the lab where the Formula Car was being assembled. There, they met more Ferris students working on the team. They discussed their design and the upcoming competition in May at MIS Speedway, where college teams from all over the world will compete for the top Formula Car design for the year.

Onekama students were fascinated by the use of technology in the design and creation of the cars. “I really enjoyed learning about the Formula One car at Ferris,” said Onekama Senior Cordell Williams. “It was neat seeing the shop where they worked on the cars for the competition. I really want to go into engineering someday.”

“With my Mechanical Engineering background, I thoroughly enjoyed and could appreciate what these students at Ferris are accomplishing,” stated Blevins. “I was excited to be able to expose my students to this type of hands-on engineering where the students are using the best that technology has to offer for design and then having the opportunity to build everything themselves.”

“The pride and enthusiasm the Ferris engineering students had for their project was evident,” continued Blevins, “and it was an exceptional experience for my Physics students to witness.”

Blevins plans to help her students continue to follow the progress of the Ferris team. She is planning an additional field trip in May to see the competition and let the OHS students cheer for their new friends.

The field trip left a lasting impression on Blevin’s students. OHS Junior Elizabeth Bergren summed up the day’s events: “All of the people’s passion and excitement for what they are doing will not be forgotten . . . do something you love, that was the lesson of the day!”

A dynamometer, made by Ferris students, used to tune their Formula One Car engine.

This ceramic has been super-cooled, creating a magnetic field which suspends the metal disc above it.

< FSU student Alex Backe explains
   to OHS students how to tune an
   engine on the dynamometer.


Mrs. Blevins homepage
for 2011-2012

Onekama High School Physics class at the National Superconducting Cyclotron Lab at MSU.
Back row L to R: Austin Olson, Curtis McKenney, Nolan Miller, Nick Osborn, Cordell Williams, MSU tour guide Zach Constan, Emily Bergren, Kaylan Fitch, Lindsay Nesburg, Kelly Koon, Lisa Fisecker, teacher Laurie Blevins.
Front row L to R: Emily Barnard, Claire Harvey, Madalyn Harvey, Mariah Hunt, Elizabeth Bergren, Kate Brauer, Brandon Morrill, Levi Mattison.

www.onekama.k12.mi.us Serving Onekama School since 1997