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


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.

New ACC Campus, New ACCHaoS Home

You may (or may not) have heard about the newest ACC campus in Austin.  The groundbreaking ceremonies were last Wednesday.  ACC is converting the old JC Penney’s store at Highland Mall into a math emporium, classrooms, and more.  We’re excited about the new Physical Sciences facilities that will be built there, and we’re especially excited because ACCHaoS will finally have a permanent home!  Currently, all of our interactive exhibits are crammed into the jointly shared Physics and Geology lab and prep room at ACC”s Northridge campus.  When the new campus opens, we’ll have a place that is specially designated for our “stuff”.  It will be housed in the Physics project room, on special metal shelves that roll.  This means that when we have a school visit of Star Party to attend,  we can roll the shelves full of boxes to the loading deck, and load them into the waiting vehicles!

ACCHaoS and Introduce a Girl to Engineering Day at UT

HIGH_RES Girl Day LogoThis Saturday, February 23, ACCHaoS will be taking part in Introduce a Girl to Engineering Day at the University of Texas at Austin.  The event is presented by the Women in Engineering Program.  This event, according to the website, “gives 1,800 1st through 8th grade students a chance to:

  • have fun doing grade-specific, hands-on engineering activities
  • meet students, professors and engineers from industry, and
  • see what it’s like to be an engineer”

Introduce a Girl to Engineering Day is an international event, celebrated during Engineer’s Week.  “Celebrate the G in Engineering” is a short video about what this event is all about.

Preregistration for the event is already closed, but on-site registration will begin at 1:30pm on the 23rd.  Those on-site registrations will be taken at a table marked “ON-SITE REGISTRATION” near the Check-in tent in front of the Engineering  Teaching Center II on the UT campus on the corner of Dean Keeton and San Jacinto Streets.  You can expedit the process by filling out the form in advance and bringing it with you.

Star Party Flyers are Winging It to the Campuses!


I got the Star Party Flyers back from Duplication Services today, and mailed them out for distribution to the campuses.  Since most of the graphics I design are for the web,  it’s always exciting to see how a finished product looks as a hard copy.  Well…most of the time it’s exciting!

If you’re on campus next week, and you spot one of of the flyers, would you let me know?  I’m trying to determine the effectiveness of this method of advertising the event.

What is ACCHaoS?


ACCHaoS – Austin Community College Hands-On Science –  is a hands-on traveling science program.  ACChaoS was created by Dr. Paul Williams, professor of Physics at Austin Community College. He modeled ACCHaoS on a similar program – Little Shop of Physics – at the University of Colorado.  After spending a year’s sabbatical with Little Shop, Dr. Williams created ACCHaoS to bring science fun to the Central Texas area.

ACCHaoS’s mission is to encourage kids to explore, experiment and think like scientists.  Our staff is on hand to guide and encourage the kids to touch, play, experiment, and figure things out on their own.   Sometimes they teach us things!  Most of all, we want them to realize that science is fun!