What is Plasma Physics and why do I need to know?

Save the Date Informational Flyer

Register Here

Science Teacher Day

What is Science
Teacher Day?

Workshop Descriptions

Plasma Sciences Expo

What is Plasma
Sciences Expo?

Download Plasma Sciences Expo Flyer
for Distribution (PDF)

Plasma Science Education Links

Suggested Student Questions

Suggested Student Questions with Answers

General Information

Maps and Directions


Workshop Descriptions

Science Teachers Day – Tuesday, October 24, 2017


All teachers will attend one of several grade-based offerings of Plasma 101: Introduction to Fusion Energy and Plasma Sciences. Teachers will be directed to attend the workshop suitable for their general teaching level (middle school or high school).  Although the fundamental information in every P101 workshop is the same, different grade-relevant activities are emphasized. 

PLASMA 101: Introduction to Fusion Energy and Plasma Sciences
Fusion energy is as old as the universe, yet scientists and engineers have been working to achieve fusion on earth during just the past 65 years. Small-scale fusion on earth has been achieved and is routine in many of today's experimental devices around the world. With an unprecedented international consortium of nations committed to developing the ITER project, we are closer than ever to achieving fusion as a safe and virtually unlimited source of clean energy. This workshop will introduce you to plasma science as a stepping stone to understanding fusion energy research. You will use standard science concepts culled from atomic structure, gas laws, electricity, and Einstein's famous equation, E=mc2, to explore this rich and fascinating world of fusion science. Demonstrations and giveaways will enable you to bring the excitement of plasma and fusion science into your classroom!

Hands-On Fusion and Plasma Activities for your Classroom: Cheryl Harper, Greensburg Salem High School; G. Samuel Lightner, Emeritus, Westminster College
Recommended for High School Teachers (and Middle School Teachers interested in enrichment)

Plasma and fusion topics may seem difficult to teach and incorporate in an already packed curriculum. The hands-on activities introduced in this workshop will help your students to learn more about plasma and fusion sciences while reinforcing and extending topics such as light, electricity and magnetism. Using some commonly available materials and inquiry methods, participants will explore tabletop "fusion," emission spectra from a fluorescent light, and the meaning of voltage and current in plasma. Some basic understanding of nuclear science, electricity, and the origin of electromagnetic radiation will be helpful. The activities in this workshop are primarily for high school students but several have also been adapted for middle school students and these will also be presented in the workshop. Presented by the Contemporary Physics Education Project (CPEP)

The Electromagnetic Spectrum: How we know what we know about 100,000,000K plasmas. Rick Lee, General Atomics
Recommended for Middle and High School Teachers

The electromagnetic (EM) spectrum is a catch-all phrase that lumps together a particular kind of energy that can travel as waves (or so the model goes…) or can be thought of as particle-like photons.  People rely on the information they receive via these traveling waves, yet many misconceptions are present in students’ and teachers’ mental constructs describing such ‘waves’.  This workshop will answer the question of what is “waving” in an EM wave, how Polaroid glasses work, why there are holes in the door of your microwave oven, what we can tell about a high-temperature plasma (in the lab or in space) based on the characteristics of EM radiation, and more.  An infrared camera will be also be used to illustrate sophisticated detection systems and how EM energy interacts with different material substrates.

Light and the Nature of Matter: Steve Allen and Don Correll, Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, Dan Burns, Los Gatos High School
Recommended for Middle and High School Teachers
This workshop will present demonstrations and activities that reveal the fundamental nature of light and how light spectroscopy is used to understand astrophysical and fusion plasmas. Applications will be presented, including the use of light as a way to probe matter on an atomic scale. Participants will have ample opportunity to work with equipment including spectrometers. Information about light and spectrometry equipment designed for the high school and middle school science classroom will be provided.

Understanding Newton's Laws: Achieving a balance of forces - Edward Thomas, Physics Department, Auburn University and Jeremiah Williams, Physics Department, Wittenberg University
Recommended for Middle School Teachers and High School Teachers

Newton's three laws of motion serve as the foundation for the development of physics. Even with the great advances in modern physics, such as quantum mechanics or relativity, the vast majority of our interactions with the physical world are well described using Newton's laws. One aspect of Newton's laws that is particularly important to both science and engineering is the ability to achieve an equilibrium — a state where the forces acting on the system are balanced. Concepts that will be examined include gravitational forces, electric forces, and drag forces.

Stars: Plasma Physics in the Sky, Mike Randall, Wonders of Physics, Department of Physics, University of Wisconsin, Madison
Recommended for Middle and High School Teachers
A star is the source of the majority of energy on earth, yet it is very difficult to bring stars down to earth in the classroom. This workshop will provide activities for teachers and the background knowledge necessary for teaching the basics about stars in the middle school or high school classroom. Questions addressed in the workshop include: How do stars work? Why are stars different colors? How do stars evolve? We will explore the origin of the elements and learn how astronomers (and your students!) decode the periodic table in the stars.  Learn about the different instruments and methods astronomers use to study stars (so you can respond accurately to the pesky "how do we know that?" question), and learn how you can provide your students with hands-on, engaging astronomy activities in the classroom.

Spectra's Quantum Leap-Modern Physics Through Comics:
Recommended for Middle School Teachers
This workshop will focus on light, energy and some complex math concepts. Explore why the rainbow is ROY G. BIV and not GO VYBIR, see what's beyond the visible spectrum using a CD and glow-in-the-dark square, and use food coloring to explore the fundamentals of the atom. We will also use playdough and toothpicks to explore the mathematical difference between doughnuts and doughnut holes. In the last activity students will use chopsticks and a T-shirt to learn some fundamental math concepts while they learn new ways to get dressed. All activities are wrapped in a story about the Laser Super Hero, Spectra, as she tries to stop a rogue mini-van "fixed" by the Quantum Mechanic. The experiments are featured as part of the comic and as the activities are completed the students are helping Spectra and her friends trap the van. The combination of comics and hands-on activities presents a unique way to engage, excite and teach all at the same time. Presented by the American Physical Society's PhysicsQuest program.