FUSE Night #1

By Simona Zaunius

On Tuesday night, October 11th, eighth graders and their families flocked down to the junior high. They signed in with their teachers, grabbed some snacks from the snack table, and sat down in the Globe.  At 6:15, FUSE night was about to begin.

FUSE stands for Family Ultimate Science Experience. The program was started by Mrs. Garza at SBJH and has since spread to other schools, but, as Mrs. Garza says, programs are always better in the place they started.

At 6:30, Mrs. Garza came up onstage. She introduced Wendy Ibsen, the associate director at CSEP (Center for Science and Engineering Partnerships) at UCSB. Wendy Ibsen had worked with Mrs. Garza since the beginning of FUSE night, 10 years ago.  Then, all 30 of the UCSB volunteers came in to introduce themselves. They stated their names and what they were working on, whether it was chemistry, lasers, photographing exoplanets, or pollution. Then the night began! Each family was given a little “passport” when they signed in that told them where to go. There were three activity stations; Electricity, Chemistry and Physics. Each station was half on hour long. The UCSB students would talk about the main concept of the station, and then give the participants a hands-on experiment.

In Electricity, families learned about sound and how speakers worked. The families were taught how to make working speakers with wire, magnets, tape, and paper plates. There was a CD player, which produced no noise by itself. Students would come up one at a time and hook up their speaker to the CD player, and suddenly the music could be heard.

The Chemistry station was all about polymers. Polymers are molecules such as protein, plastic, starches, and cellulose. The UCSB students showed how polymers bonded together in a human demonstration, then let everyone see it for themselves. There were two cups on each table, one with water and the other with a solution of some sort. Using an eyedropper, the fluid was dropped into the water and swished around. Slowly people were able to see the polymers bonding. When the water was strained, soft plastic-like noodles or bubbles came out. “Like Orbies almost,” said Grace Miller, an eighth grader who participated.

The last station, Physics, was all about transmissions. The instructors described how cellular devices worked, and how texts are sent. They then demonstrated using laser pointers and shining them through cords. The lasers represented the text message, and the cords represented the transmission path. The laser showing through the other end represented a text message being received. Afterwards, each family was given gelatin and a laser pointer and tasked with pointing in through the gelatin, and cutting it in a way to make it come back to them.

Reception from FUSE night was very positive. Along with 20 extra credit points, students came away with a better knowledge of how things work. “I enjoyed that it was so hands-on and that it was really something fun to do that involves science,” Charlie Hess stated.

Grace Miller, when asked her favorite part of FUSE night, answered “I liked the experiments because in school…” Emerson, who didn’t come with her own parents but was “adopted” by Grace’s parents interjected about how much she liked the food. Grace continued. “…yes they had amazing food but-”

“Oreos and jellybeans!”

“Emerson!… I really enjoyed the experiments because they’re not something I think we would do in school, something that we would do as like a special occasion, so I thought that was really cool.”

As said previously, Mrs. Garza was the teacher who started this all. Asked what inspired her to do so, she replied:

“I wanted students and their families to explore science together in a hands on experience while learning from enthusiastic experts from various scientific fields. To me the word FUSE is an important term for we are, for a moment, fusing families and members of the university and school district using the power of science and curiosity. I hope that the effect of FUSE will spark further family discussions and explorations.”

What is Mrs. Garza’s favorite part of the night? “I love seeing students working with their parents to build speakers, design gelatin waveguides or even playing with blobs of colored kelp beads.  The interactions, questions, teamwork, debates, and smiles amongst the families are priceless.  I am also inspired by the enthusiasm and passion of the volunteer graduate students.  I hope that their experience with FUSE will encourage them to create outreach programs of their own when they become professors.”

If you missed this FUSE night, don’t worry! There will be another one in the spring. For those who went to this one, thanks go out to everyone who came. Come to the second one as well! There will be completely different activities. “We will explore chemical reactions and possibly some color, light and smoke!” Mrs. Garza said. When asked whether she’d come again in the springtime for FUSE, Jocelyn Gallardo delivered a perfect concluding sentence:

“I am. The first one was so much fun.”

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