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Xraise, the CLASSE (Cornell Laboratory for Accelerator-based ScienceS and Education) outreach program, traveled to the 2013 Maker Faire at the New York Hall of Science this fall. The Maker Faire is an annual event held by Maker Media (publisher of MAKE Magazine). They advertise their event as “The Greatest Show (and Tell) on Earth”. Many of the exhibits are interactive, with a focus on future technology and do-it-yourself projects. Mini-lectures are held throughout the weekend event, discussing topics ranging from microrobots to hacking to the art of design. Some notable exhibits include a giant larger-than-life mouse trap, a Coke Zero and Mentos show, and a Microsoft-sponsored booth that featured printable circuit design and manufacture.

Xraise booth

MacCHESS scientist Alvin Acerbo interacts with fair goers visiting Xraise booth to experience hands-on science exhibits created by “Junk Genies.”

Cornell’s Xraise booth, Physics Experiments from Upcycled Appliances, displayed numerous exhibits created by their “Junk Genies” demonstrating interesting science phenomenon. The “Junk Genies” are comprised of Ithaca 9th and 10th graders who participate in local after-school programs focused on science. The students repurposed things to provide scientific insight--creating exhibits literally out of junk. Some of the students even attended the fair to help demonstrate their creations!

Standing waves demonstration

CHESS scientist Matt Ward demonstrates standing waves while fair-goers look on.

The upcycled exhibits creatively demonstrate a range of science concepts by repurposing appliances no longer needed for their original purpose. The “Junk Genies” turned an old microwave into a light show by placing neon gas-filled bulbs on the rotating tray; as the tray rotates while the microwave runs, the microwaves excite the neon gas, lighting the bulbs. A belt sander, mounted in the sound hold of an acoustic guitar functions similarly to a strobe light, allowing one’s eye to pick out individual waves of the vibrating guitar strings. A jig saw, connected to a long elastic cord, was used to demonstrate standing waves.

Spectators were encouraged to hold the loose end of the cord and try to control the number and amplitude of the waves generated. Check out the “Junk Genies” exhibits:

Grad student and fair-goers

Cornell physics graduate student Jennifer Chu talks to fair-goers about exhibits.

The Physics Experiments from Upcycled Appliances booth had hundreds of excited and engaged visitors. Both young and old fair-goers were encouraged to interact with the hands-on exhibits. The event was such a success that the booth earned both Educator’s Choice and three Editor’s Choice awards. One MAKE Magazine editor even took the time to interview booth staff about the exhibits:



Submitted by: Margaret Koker, CHESS, Cornell University