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The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

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Celebrating science

Physics+Circus+performer+Rhys+Thomas+balances+a+juggling+club+on+his+chin+as+the+audience+looks+on+with+amazement.
Photo by Provided by Michael Torregosa

Physics Circus performer Rhys Thomas balances a juggling club on his chin as the audience looks on with amazement.

From building a Lego pendulum, to blowing bubbles, to making a watermelon explode by wrapping thousands of rubber bands around it, nearly 200 experiments were on display at the 16th annual Physics and Engineering Festival.
In one experiment, 11-year-old Arlan Izaguirre from Dickinson, Texas, watched in awe as he crushed a soda can with an electric current in a demonstration called “The Can Crusher.” Others like Izaguirre traveled with their families and classmates from all over the country to take part in the annual event.
“Though the weather has been cold and rainy, people still want to be drawn in and we have a crowd coming in for our experiment every 15 minutes, which makes it truly enjoyable, especially for the kids,” physics senior Cameron Rozean said.
Rozean operated the Depth Charge experiment, also known as the liquid nitrogen explosion, which is one of the most popular demonstrations of the festival.
The experiment works by submerging a sealed two-liter bottle of liquid nitrogen inside a 50-gallon water barrel. As the nitrogen evaporates, the pressure in the botte rises until it bursts, sending the water in the barrel flying upwards.
Rozean has been part of the festival for five years now and has participated in this experiment for the last three years.
“I started doing this sophomore year and I can’t get enough of it,” Rozean said. “I’d do this probably about 100 times a year and that’s not counting the years from the festival.”
Rozean is also part of “The Big Finale,” in which 200 colorful balls are added to five depth charge barrels and sent flying into the air along with the water when the nitrogen bottles explode.
Tatiana Erukhimova is an instructional associate professor of physics and one of the main coordinators of the festival. She said she enjoys seeing attendees be fascinated with the festival’s events and demonstrations.
“It’s amazing sight to see — kids that travel all over the country just to see the science demonstrations that we put on for them means so much,” Erukhimova said.
The festival has grown over the years and now welcomes over 6,000 attendees each year, Erukhimova said before this year’s festival.
Another experiment which took place at the event was the Rail Gun, put on by physics senior Josh Stenzel and physics junior Taylor Pritchett.
In the experiment, a projectile is accelerated by an electromagnetic current between two rails and launched toward a target.
“This demo is truly a blast for me to help demonstrate,” Stenzel said. “It’s based on principles that are pretty simple and they’re explained in introductory physics classes, which also helps me learn about circuits, which I love.”
Matthew Lee, physics graduate student, is one of the mentors who helped the undergraduate students conduct their experiments for the Physics and Engineering Festival. The undergraduate students get to choose their project, which they then present to the public.
“One of the experiments that we’re really excited about, and we just finished in time for the festival, is something called the infinity mirror,” Lee said. “We literally did everything we could to finish this on time, as we finished it at 9 p.m. last night.”
The experiment creates the appearance of an infinite row of lights using a strip of LEDs between two mirrored surfaces.
Lee mentored Emily Hays, physics freshman, who worked on the infinity mirror project.
“I chose this experiment because I thought it was something that is really fascinating to me and how simple it could be,” Hays said. “I saw the effect used in the last Star Wars movie and it really got me thinking of how I can conduct my studies into that.”
As Rozean approaches the end of his senior year, he said the Physics and Engineering Festival has been a great way for him and others to share their love and interest in science.
“This [is] one of those things that will always stick with you,” Rozean said. “I don’t know if this is my last festival or not, but what I do know is Dr. Erukhimova loves having her former students come back and the best part about all this is having people coming up to us expressing their enjoyment of us sharing science with them. That’s what means the most.”

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