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CHESS enjoyed a strong presence at the March APS meeting in New Orleans last month. In addition to having a prominent spot on APS TV—broadcast in multiple places throughout the conference—scientific talks included cutting-edge research by Detlef Smilgies, Darren Pagan, Jooseop Lee, Jacob Ruff, and Ken Finkelstein. This year’s March meeting also included something new and unexpected from CHESS—a large showcase of do-it-yourself Synchrotron Science themed exhibits aboard an aluminum foil covered Physics Bus!

Doubling down on increasing public awareness in physics, the APS Forum on Outreach and Engaging the Public hosted a session From Physics Girl to the Physics Bus, Creating an Effective Voice for Physics in a Diverse Society. Among those invited to speak were Xraise outreach staff Eva Luna and Erik Herman who, outside their responsibilities at CHESS, founded the Ithaca Physics Bus with help from educators in the Ithaca community. APS sponsored the Physics Bus, its team, and its flagship exhibition, JunkGenies of Science, all for the benefit of APS conference participants, two New Orleans elementary schools, and a Boys & Girls Club.

 Physics Girl, Dianna Cowern, diffracts light with her hair.

 5th grader at Gentilly Terrace Elementary explores the mysteries of polarization.

The presentation was well received and lively discussion affirmed our model for engaging the public. Evidence of audience endorsement included standing-room-only and multiple mentions on various social media accounts, for instance @loiscvasquez: “we need a @physicsbus for #detroit!”

 A 3rd grader bends an electron beam with an audio signal.

 Becky Thompson, head of Public Outreach at APS (aka Spectra—The Original Laser Superhero) writes with a laser.

Our showcase at the welcome reception caused even seasoned physicists to drop their jaws in amazement at things they hadn’t seen before. Other highlights include: YouTube-famous Physics Girl, Dianna Cowern, took the opportunity to diffract light with her hair; National High Magnetic Field Laboratory Director of Public Affairs, Kristin Roberts, enthusiastically shared magnet-themed exhibits with her MagLab colleagues; and Becky Thompson, Director of Public Outreach for APS and author of Spectra-The Original Laser Superhero wrote her name with a laser!

 Kristin Roberts shows her MagLab colleagues how synchrotron science is also magnetic field science!

 Principal Brown shares the joy of science with his students at Gentilly Terrace Elementary School.

In its commitment to public outreach, APS supported three days of visits to New Orleans area kids, during which nearly 600 students and educators enjoyed our showcase. CHESS is a proud ally in finding effective ways to engage the public and we are pleased with the exposure our JunkGenies exhibition has afforded through our collaboration with the Physics Bus. Our experience at the March Meeting has further demonstrated the efficacy of this model of outreach, and we encourage other institutions to embrace this easily-reproducible model toward their own fulfillment of broader impacts.

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Submitted by: Erik Herman, CHESS, Cornell University