School Visits, Star Parties, and Fun!

This year has taken off!  We’ve visited two schools, and shared the fun at the first Star Party.

Take a look at all the science fun!


Magdeburg Suction Cups – you can’t pull them apart!


Soaring Sphere!


Handy Pressure


Lenz Law tube


ACCHaoS – Fall 2013 in Retrospect

We’ve been busy.  I mean, really busy – and this is a very, very good thing!  I was catching up on some record-keeping this morning.  So far this semester (Fall 2013), ACCHaoS has made five school visits to four schools, and attended three public events – two Star Parties, and a Back to School Night that Paul did all by himself!  This translates into about forty-three hours of direct contact, and sharing science with a little over 1, 300 kids and adults.  We’re not done yet – we still have one more school visit before Winter Break.  The fun won’t stop there – we have  full calendar for Spring 2014!  Let the wild science rumpus begin!

Take a look at these photos – you can see why it has been a blast!

IMG_9395sm ote_karl_sm whoa photo-(9) starparty1108 starparty1108b eedenpark

Photos courtesy of Leslie Long and Karl Trappe

13 Hours of Non-Stop Science!


Star Party fun with ACCHaoS
Photo by Leslie Long

Tomorrow is a big day for ACCHaoS.  To start the day off, we’re visiting Old Town Elementary 1st graders!  Old Town Texans rock!  Then, from 5:30 until 8:00, we’ll be at the Star Party sharing science with who ever wants to come!  Why this crazy schedule, you ask?  Because science really is that fun!!!

Be sure and come visit us at the Star Party. It will be from 5:30-9:45 on Friday, October 11th at ACC’s Round Rock campus. ACCHaoS will be set up in the lobby of building 2000. Our good friends from the Austin Planetarium will be there with the Discovery Dome, their mobile planetarium. If you haven’t checked out the planetarium shows, they are really awesome.

At 7:00 in room 3339 in building 3000, Jim Heath will conduct another of his popular talks. This one is titled “On the Shoulders of Giants,” a look at the history of science.

Then at 8:00, the observing deck on building 3000 will open, and everyone can have a look at the night sky through the three big ACC telescopes.  What else will we see?  I’m not sure, but there’ll be ACC faculty and staff on hand to guide you and answer questions.

More info on the Star Party party can be found at

More info on ACCHaoS can be found at

Blasting Off to Astro Camp this Friday!

Astro Camp 2012

Astro Camp 2012

After a short break, ACCHaoS is headed out to Astro Camp this Friday.   We’re looking forward to our visit – we had a great time there last summer!  Astro Camp is a joint  project of the Austin Planetarium and Starry Sky Austin.

ACCHaoS Visits Mr. Matus’ Science Classes


Floating beachball!

Science rocks in Mr. Matus‘ science classes!   We spent the day last Friday with the 5th graders at Eanes Elementary, and we had a blast.

One of the most interesting things about the visit was the use of technology to reinforce and extend their ACCHaoS experience.  During the last 15 minutes or so of each class’ time with the exhibits, Mr. Matus asked them to take a picture or video of their favorite hands-on exhibit with their iPads.  Then, they wrote a few sentences about the this, and emailed it to their parents.  How cool is that?!


Magdeburg challenge!

What is a School Visit?

So, you’ve heard all this talk about school visits, but you’re not sure what that means?  Here’s an example of a typical school visit:

The day before:

The cars are packed with all of the boxes containing the interactive exhibits.  Since we’re still just starting out, we are using our private vehicles to transport the exhibits.  So, loading the boxes requires those skills learned back when you spent all that time playing Tetris.  It’s almost magical!

The day of the visit:

Early morning:

Usually we arrive at the school somewhere around the start of the school day.  We check in with the office to have our driver’s licenses scanned and get our name tags for the day.  Then someone shows us to the room we’ll be using.  We unload all the boxes, and start setting up.

Set-up is taking us about forty-five minutes to an hour right now.  We’re working on ways to speed this up, but to some extent, it depends on the room – we have to determine how to best utilize the space we’ve been given, how many tables we have, and how many outlets there are and where they are located.  Once we decide on a layout, we go to work setting up the exhibits and getting ready for the first group of students.


The Wow Moment

The students arrive:

The first group of students arrives with their teacher.  They sit down and listen while Paul tells them a little about what they are going to do.  We hand out rainbow glasses and then Paul turns on an ordinary light.  I like to call this “The Wow Moment,”  because no matter how old the kids are, they still say “WOW!”  When viewed through the rainbow glasses, that ordinary light bulb is surrounded by rainbows.  Then, he shows them a neon light.  The effect is different.  How?  You’ll have to try it.  I don’t want to spoil it!


Trying out all of the exhibits.

After that, the kids are free to wander around the room, trying out all of the exhibits. There are signs with each exhibit suggesting what to try, and explaining what is happening.  There are also several ACCHaoS staffers floating around to answer any questions.

The kids are amazing.  They try and they retry, they experiment, and they ask questions.  I like to watch them as they try different things out – sometimes they go and get someone else, and show them, too.  And that is what good scientists do – share their observations and discoveries.

Classes usually stay with us anywhere from thirty to forty-five minutes, depending on the grade level.  Between classes we scurry around straightening up and re-setting anything that needs attention.  Then the next class arrives, and  it all starts again!

At the end of the visit:

Packing up - loading car #1

Packing up – loading the car

After our last class leaves, we reverse the process from the morning and take everything apart and put the exhibits back in their boxes.  Then, we load up the flat carts, and take the boxes back to the cars, and load them up again.  Then, after a group fist bump, everyone gets back in their cars and we depart.  Some brave, hardy souls head back to the Northridge campus to unload the boxes and stow them away until the next time.

ACCHaoS Visits Austin Peace Academy

This was our second visit to Austin Peace Academy.  We had a lot of fun at the first visit, so we were really excited about returning.

We had a blast!  The kids were interested and inquisitive – they asked lots of really good questions.  We even had the high school class come for an impromptu visit – the guys were fascinated with trying to pull apart the Magdeburg Cups!  Sorry, guys – you may be strong, but that air pressure is stronger!

Here are a few pictures we took.  Some are a little blurry, but maybe you can still see some of the fun we had!


The warm-up: Paul talks about what scientists do.


The kids put on the rainbow glasses; Paul turns on an ordinary light bulb, and WOW! Rainbows!!


Paul turns on a neon light. What do you think they saw with their rainbow glasses?


These boys are doing some serious thinking!

The magnetic skillet is always a big hit!

The magnetic skillet is always a big hit!

Lotws of students looking at and interactiing with the exhibits.  And, if you look at the righthand side of the photo, you'll see a little bit of those boys trying to seperate the Magdeburg suction cups.

Lots of students looking at and interacting with the exhibits. And, if you look at the right-hand side of the photo, you can just barely see those boys trying to separate the Magdeburg suction cups!

School visit: Summit Elementary – January 25, 2013

We had an awesome visit at Summit Elementary yesterday.  What a great bunch of kids!

We started bringing in the boxes and setting up the activities about 7:45.  We were ready and waiting by 8:45, when the first class was to arrive.

We squeezed all of our activities into a busy science classroom.  One of the principles of ACCHaoS is "work with what you have"!

We squeezed all of our activities into a busy science classroom. One of the principles of ACCHaoS is “work with what you have”!

Set up and ready!

Set up and ready!

Here are Karl, Paul, Velvet, Qurrat, and Zach - ready for the day to begin. Can you say "excited"?!

Here are Karl, Paul, Velvet, Qurrat, and Zach – ready for the day to begin.  Can you say “excited”?!

Paul gives a short intro before each session.


The kids try to predict what might happen when the light is turned on.


After the short intro, the kids are free to look, touch, explore, and experiment – and the “chaos” begins!


The kids are encouraged to try things out, and the ACCHaoS gang is there to answer questions.


That pendulum was going back and forth before she put the glasses on – now it seems to be going in a figure eight! Why?

There’s so much to see and do and try.


Can you get all five rings spinning, and keep them moving by turning the hoop?


Oven rack guitar.

They’re having so much fun that they don’t want to leave.

The louder you talk into the microphone, the brighter the bulbs light up!

The louder you talk into the microphone, the brighter the bulbs light up!

Sometimes, just like the kids,  we discover things by accident.  Here I am, having my own “wow” moment.


When the camera’s flash goes off, you see rainbows!

Karl has to try it, too.


At 2:15 we packed up (in 17 minutes – it might be our new record), and loaded everything into the cars.  Another successful visit by the ACCHaoS gang!

ACCHaoS: A New School Visit

Tomorrow the ACCHaoS gang will visit Summit Elementary in Austin for the first time.  Our plan is to be there at 7:30, sign in,  and then spend about an hour bringing in  the boxes and setting up the activities.  We’ll see our first class at 8:45.  We’ll see only fifth graders this time, and each class will spend about an hour and five minutes with us.  We’ll see four groups of students, and we’ll be there until 2:15.


This is how a usual visit goes:  Paul spends about 5 minutes talking to each class about what scientist do.  He shows them different kinds of lights, and they get to look at them through the glasses we give them (and they get to take them home).  He talks about how scientists have tools (the glasses, in this case) and they use them to learn more about different things.  He tells that another important thing that scientists do is to share their findings, and as scientists,  the kids should share with a friend when they find something cool while they’re exploring the ACCHaoS activities.  And then he turns them loose to explore!


I’m always amazed at how involved the kids get in the activities.  Even if it’s something they’ve seen before, like the tornado in a bottle, they still seem fascinated by it.  I think that they really enjoy being able to touch, explore,  and do things.

Between classes, we straighten up, and put things back in place.  They do get moved around – but that’s the point:  they’re there to be experienced.

So, we’re off to Summit tomorrow.  I’ll share our experience, and some pictures when we get back!