The Palmview Lobos had the opportunity to walk on water and experiment with liquid nitrogen at school on Jan. 15.
With the help of the UTPA Society of Physics Students, the high school community participated in hands-on activities to better acquaint themselves with the STEM fields.
Palmview High’s physics dual enrollment class partnered up with the University of Texas – Pan American for an all-day science, technology, engineering and mathematics event. UTPA students held 11 demonstrations throughout the gym and the high school students made their way around the stations, learning the function of each tool.
One of the biggest crowd-pleasers was Non Newtonian Fluid, a pink liquid that was displayed inside a kiddie pool, but took on a different form once the substance was disturbed.
“What’s really cool about this fluid is that it acts as both a solid and a liquid,” SPS Historian Brenda Ramirez said. “When (the students) actually touch it, it turns into a solid when they’re moving it around. It has to do with the bonds and the molecules and the way they’re rearranging themselves.”
Globs and flecks of pink were scattered throughout the gym and school grounds from students who attempted to handle the cornstarch and water-made substance.
“It’s important to be exposed to these sorts of things. I think if I had that sort of exposure when I was younger, I would have shown more interest into the field at a younger age versus now that I’m older,” said Ramirez, a physical science major. “It took a while to realize that this is what I want to do. So this is just for (the students) to know that this is what is out there.”
American students are falling behind other nations in the STEM fields, with 26 industrialized nations performing higher in the maths and 19 industrialized nations in the sciences in 2012, according to the National Math and Science Initiative.
The UTPA students understand the disparities between STEM graduates and non STEM graduates and have taken it upon themselves to show Valley students that science can be enjoyable too. The Physics society travels throughout the RGV, hosting demos and spreading the scientific word.
“It’s getting more people educated about what they can do in physics, what a career in physics is about, why it’s relevant, doing a lot of hands on things to make sure that it’s not just a boring mathematical kind of thing,” said Kareen Wahid, president of the UTPA society. “Kids should be open to learning new things about science because there’s a lot that could inspire them.”
In 2004, the dropout rate for Hispanics ages 16 to 24 was the highest among other ethnic groups with 24 percent. But La Joya ISD is giving kids a jump-start with the South Texas College physics dual enrollment course.
Although there are fewer than 10 students in the college-level class and fewer than 10 students in the advanced placement class, science teacher Portia Abad said her job is to inspire the kids, and in turn, have those students encourage others.
“We wanted to bring physics awareness to the students of Palmview High School because a lot of people think that science isn’t fun, and we totally disagree,” said Priscilla Duran, a Palmview physics dual enrollment student. “Every day we learn something new, and even if you don’t know it, physics is all around us.”