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Physics and Astronomy club regaining traction

High+schoolers+fill+an+auditorium+at+a+demo+show+sponsored+by+the+PandA+club.+
Mason Fuller
High schoolers fill an auditorium at a demo show sponsored by the PandA club.

COVID-19 took its toll on the membership of App State’s Physics and Astronomy Club, but through the hard work of dedicated students, the organization’s membership engagement is increasing. 

When Mason Fuller joined in October 2021, the club had four officers and no regular attendees. Two years later, there are now 10 officers, including Fuller as co-president, and an average of 20 additional members at each event. In total, there are 69 people on the club’s Engage roster. 

The majority of new members are underclassmen, but more upperclassmen are starting to join the more the club becomes reestablished, said Fuller. He also said that graduate students are getting involved as well. 

“Physics classes can be hard, and it’s so helpful to have a supportive community to remind you that it can be fun as well,” said Jessica Gerac, the club’s outreach coordinator.

Last semester, the club attended the national Society of Physics Students Zone 5 chapter meeting. The meeting took place Feb. 18 at Duke University, and was a big step in the right direction for reinstating the club into the physics community. 

At the meeting, each of the schools in attendance, including Clemson, North Carolina State Univeristy and UNC-Chapel Hill, discussed the current state of their organizations. App State was the school with the highest number of women in leadership positions, which reflected nicely on the club. Out of the seven officers present, four of them were women. 

They also discussed goals for how they want to continue to engage with the students. For App State, Fuller said they work hard to give their members academic connections that offer support and helpful advice.

“Physics is not an easy major, and we want to try and make it a little easier for people,” Fuller said.

Brooke Hester has been the club’s faculty advisor since 2011, and in 2021 she gained a co-advisor, Roshani Silwal. 

“We provide fun downtime opportunities for our majors,” Hester said. “We have also participated in Buildfest, sponsored by the Children’s Playhouse, which takes place annually at Watauga High School where we do hands-on booths and a huge physics show.”

Although notable, Buildfest is not the only time the club does demonstration shows. They also participate in STEAM Expo, an event that allows multiple departments to get together to contribute their own booths and show off each STEAM topic.

The club’s demonstrations range from a wide variety of experiments. One of Fuller’s favorites was an activated fire extinguisher attached to a wheeled cart, which caused the cart to accelerate forward. Gerac mentioned that she has fond memories of science themed field trips, and that she believes they sparked her interest in the subject. 

“I would love it if our demo shows caused some students to consider a career in physics, but my main goal is to inspire kids to be more curious about the world we live in,” said Gerac. 

A core value of the club is to be encouraging to everyone to learn more about physics. The subject can have a scary reputation, so they want to inspire younger and college-aged students to give it a try, even if they aren’t seeking a career in it. Despite membership being encouraged for physics majors, the club is also open to non-majors who are interested in learning more about the subject. 

“As outreach coordinator, one of my goals is to make physics accessible and interesting to non-physics majors,” said Gerac. “It would be amazing to see more people from different disciplines at our events.” 

Along with bi-weekly member meetings at varying times, the club also hosts social events like game nights and kickball. Their next large upcoming event is a telescope tour of Rankin South on Friday, Oct. 13. 

For more updates on meetings and events, email Fuller at fullermg@appstate.edu to be added to the club’s newsletter or with any questions.

“If you think it would be fun to make it rain 2,000 ping pong balls propelled by liquid nitrogen while children jump with joy around you: this is the club for you,” said Hester. 

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About the Contributor
Rebekah Mann, Reporter
Rebekah Mann (she/her) is a junior with a double major in journalism and dance studies a minor in English.
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