Women+ in Physics Club wows Easton community with scientific demonstrations

Board+members+from+the+Women%2B+in+Physics+Club+demonstrated+magnets+and+light+diffraction+to+the+shoppers+at+Easton+Farmers+Market+last+weekend.+%28Photo+courtesy+of+Jenna+Tempkin+24%29+

Board members from the Women+ in Physics Club demonstrated magnets and light diffraction to the shoppers at Easton Farmers’ Market last weekend. (Photo courtesy of Jenna Tempkin ’24)

Lafayette’s Women+ in Physics Club treated shoppers to a scientific extravaganza at last weekend’s Easton Farmers’ Market as part of their community outreach efforts.

The demonstrations at the market fell into one of two categories: magnets and light.

One of the magnetic experiments dealt with the polarity of fridge magnets. Another demonstration included a substance called ferrofluid.

“Basically, it’s a bunch of super tiny magnetic particles suspended in oil,” vice president Jenna Tempkin ‘24 said of the substance. “So if you hold up a magnet really close to it, you can get these really cool patterns and spikes, and the kids love that.”

One of the group’s light experiments included diffraction glasses, which, according to Tempkin, are “glasses that split light into its different wavelengths, or basically different colors. We gave them to whoever came up, and because of the sun, there are basically little rainbows all over the place.”

Tempkin, along with president Jessia McDivitt ’24 and secretary Sophia Kosednar ’24, chose experiments that would be interesting and interactive for passersby.

“The reason we chose those [experiments] is because there are so many examples of how people interact with those things every day,”  Kosednar, the club’s secretary, said. “They’re good stepping stones for people to be like, ‘Oh, that’s physics? Because I [see] rainbows and I don’t think about it, or I stick things on my fridge and I don’t ask questions.’”

The club members try to engage participants by asking them for their predictions.

“We usually try to ask questions like ‘what do you think is gonna happen next?’ Or ‘what do you see?’” Kosednar said.

After earning a grant from the American Physical Association last year, the club set a goal of becoming more involved in the greater Easton community.

“Strengthening that Lafayette College [and] downtown Easton connection is something we think makes everyone better,” Kosednar said.

The club’s board members hope to make the daunting field of physics seem more appealing to community members.

“One of the sentiments and goals of our club, in general, is to make physics more equitable and make physics more accessible because there are massive amounts of history that [say] physics is specifically for men, and that’s so false,” Tempkin said.

McDivitt hopes the members can provide a model to younger people interested in science.

“Part of the reason we like physics and we like science is because we were exposed to it when we were younger. So as a club, we understand the importance of having outreach events so that people in elementary school and middle school can see people like them doing science and think, ‘Oh, I’ll be able to do science.’”

McDivitt also hopes to change the attitude around the intimidating perception of physics.

“No one can understand anything they haven’t learned yet, but I think this topic is more accessible than people think it is,” she said.

In the future, the club members hope to continue their community outreach efforts by completing demonstrations at local elementary schools.

More information about the Women+ in Physics Club can be found on their Instagram page at @lafayette_wip.