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UND Physics Day sparks interest in area students

Engineer Harry Feilen with the UND College of Engineering and Mines pressed the B key on a small keyboard. The sound came out of a speaker in the end of a hollow metal tube, causing a line of flames to shoot up in a scalloped shape.

The group of high school students watching him at UND’s Physics Day all gasped.

The experiment gives viewers a visual representation of what sound waves look like and how they change with the pitch of a note. 

Senior Xavier Jimenez from Davies High School in Fargo wants to study physics after he graduates and played a short tune on the device while his classmates watched the fire patterns change.

“It was pretty cool,” he said.

The annual event in UND’s Memorial Union drew about 200 high school students from the area. Physics and Astrophysics Department Chairman Ju Kim said attendance over the years has been steady at a couple hundred students.

This year featured eight stations of experiments for students to watch and participate in, including a superconducting magnet, a Tesla coil that creates static electricity and the Rubens’ tube that Jimenez enjoyed experimenting with.

Richard Tung, an assistant professor of physics at UND, passed out long wands to a different group of high school students attending the event. The students quickly figured out they could be used to manipulate pieces of ribbon and had them dancing high above their heads in the air.

“These are very basic principles of physics,” Tung said to the group. “Like charges repel each other and opposite charges attract each other.”

Jim said that while the day is a recruitment event, it’s mostly about education.

“Some of them have an interest in science and engineering, so we’re happy to provide information about what these sciences are all about,” Kim said.

Anna Burleson

Anna Burleson is the higher education reporter for The Grand Forks Herald. She is a 2013 graduate of the University of South Dakota's Mass Communication program and is originally from Watertown, S.D. Contact her with story ideas or tips by phone, email or Twitter, all of which are listed below. Examples of her work can be accessed here.

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