By Ana Martinez-Ortiz
Bay View High School’s first official Fusion Fest this past Monday night began with a series of random occurrences, luck, and chance.
Dana Timm, the high school’s engineering teacher, known as Mr. Timm by his students, received an email informing him that the American Physical Society’s (APS) Department of Physics annual meeting for 2016 would be held in Milwaukee. As the meeting separates into two sections, a workshop for teachers and an exposition for students, APS offered to send teachers materials to encourage students’ participation.
Arturo Dominguez, a researcher at Princeton University and APS member, recalled that Timm was “by far the most enthusiastic” upon hearing the news.
As promised, Bay View High School began receiving materials and Timm began formulating an idea, along with several other faculty members.
Although he was excited for the students, Timm wanted their experience to go beyond the exposition downtown, so, he decided to create an after-school group: Fusion. He wanted his students to question the information and learn for themselves. The focus of the group was waves and their many variations and forms.
Timm handpicked students, mostly freshman and sophomores, who displayed interest in science. Then, for eight days they gathered for roughly two hours a night after classes had ended. During this time, the students studied plasma, gamma radiation, X-rays, TV and radio, UV radiation and fusion science.
According to Timm, the group looked at commonplace items to study certain aspects. For example, they used a cell phone to study infrared light or a CD to capture the light spectrum. The kids taught themselves how to use a fusion reactor and its purpose in their research.
They split off into groups, with a focus on specific waveforms, to research, inform and display. Timm and the other volunteer teachers would walk around and offer advice.
Evelyn Tinoco, a freshman, was one of the students picked to join Fusion.
“I never got into this until he put us in here,” said Tinoco, “And we had to research everything.”
Tinoco, freshman Jimmy Garcia, and sophomore Dekaeshawn Tramme researched TV and radio waves.
Timm would approach each group and say, “Tell me something new, something interesting and something I didn’t know.”
Then he would have them share it with a different group. Their knowledge was later put to the test during Fusion Fest when teachers Mr. Coppersmith and Mr. Conn asked them questions like, “How are radio and TV waves used today?”
The students weren’t the only ones learning new information—math teacher Claire Gerlach, who helped with Fusion, discovered new facts as well. For her and the other teachers, working on Fusion gave them the opportunity to make connections with the kids—the future leaders at the school. In addition to Fusion Fest, which allowed the students to showcase their projects to university representatives like Dominguez, Timm also arranged for firefighters on the HazMat team to be there.
Timm said the firefighters may not be scientists, but they use the study of light and he wanted the kids to see how science is applied in everyday jobs. He also involved students studying culinary arts to supply refreshments for guests.
According to Dominguez, APS plans to track different teachers like Timm and continue to supply them with the materials they need to foster the students’ interest in science and make a “lasting impact.”
Although Fusion only lasted two weeks, students and faculty hope it’ll become an annual activity.