USC Outreach Program Makes Physics Fun at SC State Fair
It’s the smell of elephant ears, mustard and fried everything. It’s the uneasy feeling in the pit of your stomach as you clickety-clack up the first hill of the roller coaster. It’s the South Carolina State Fair, and it’s also Midway Physics Day, when thousands of kids from across the state learn that science can be cool.
For 15 years and counting, Midway Physics Day has been showing S.C. kids how the laws of physics influence everything around them, bringing classroom learning into the real world — a really fun real world.
“It’s fabulous when you can actually go play with something and it connects with what you’re learning in the classroom,” explains USC physics professor Jeff Wilson, who, along with fellow professor Dave Tedeschi, leads the physics day at the fair.
Last year, USC faculty and students brought physics to life for more than 3,000 students from 49 middle schools and high schools. Led by Jeff and Dave and a host of help from the university, the kids are able to see the laws of physics at work during hands-on experiments like dipping a balloon into liquid nitrogen before heading out to the Midway.
For most of the kids, that’s when the thrills begin. But even taking a spin on the Himalaya or the Ferris Wheel can teach them about physics. Armed with instruments like accelerometers and barometers, students take measurements while flipping and soaring through the autumn air. It’s a thrilling experiment, one ride at a time.