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ISU Physics Professor Nabs Funding for STEM Outreach Programs, Teacher Workshops

April 1, 2024

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An Idaho State University professor's outreach efforts are getting support from East Idaho and around the nation.

Recently, the Idaho Accelerator Center pledged its support to the tune of $5,000 for Steve Shropshire’s STEM outreach efforts for local youth. A professor of physics at ISU, Shropshire holds over 100 science presentations and activities for children and teens at Idaho libraries, schools, museums, and more each year. The events cover all aspects of physical science, from building water rockets and catapults to coding, modeling, and more. They allow thousands of youth to see, hear, and touch the topics they are learning about in their science classes. Additionally, some funds will be used to purchase materials to construct roller coasters, wind generators, and more for the Pocatello Regional Competition of the Idaho Science Olympiad.

“We support Dr. Shropshire's efforts to engage and educate in science and technology,” said Jon Stoner, director of the Idaho Accelerator Center. “Many scientists were encouraged to enter their fields as youth because of hands-on demonstrations of ‘cool’ science, and these students may become our future researchers."

“I greatly appreciate Jon Stoner and the Idaho Accelerator Center's support of science education for Idaho youth and the general public through my programs, and I extend my deepest thanks,” said Shropshire.

Shropshire will also teach teachers at a cosmic ray workshop this summer. Funded by the University of Notre Dame’s Department of Physics and Astronomy and the Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory (Fermilab), the four-day QuarkNet workshop for high school teachers will train them to use cosmic ray detectors and provide instruction on current high-energy physics research they can pass on to their students. The educators will then take the detectors back to their classrooms to have their students conduct cosmic ray experiments. Teachers participating in the program are also eligible to go to Fermilab in Illinois or CERN in Europe to assist in high-energy physics experiments.

“The workshop provides teachers with an unprecedented opportunity to use state-of-the-art particle detection systems on loan from Fermilab and give their students practical experience with cutting-edge science,” Shropshire said. “Once the workshop ends, teachers are encouraged to maintain their cosmic ray detectors and keep them operational as much as possible. Now stationed in classrooms, the detectors provide astrophysicists and nuclear and particle physicists with a grid of operating detectors across much of North America that can be used to analyze large-scale cosmic ray events produced by our sun and from outside our solar system.”

ISU is one of 49 QuarkNet centers across the U.S. and Puerto Rico, and the only one serving teachers in Idaho, Utah, Montana, and Wyoming. 

If you’re a teacher or after-school program organizer and would like to book a science demonstration show or are interested in the cosmic ray workshop, contact Steve Shropshire at outreach@isu.edu or (208) 282-2212.  

For more information on ISU’s Department of Physics, visit isu.edu/physics


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