• BEST IN STATE—Senior Courtney Schoen Lewis was named Best PR Student in Utah. Story

20,000 bouncy balls rain down as crowd celebrates Science Geek Week

March 18th, 2011 Posted in Opinion

Story and Photo by Heidi Hansen

LOGAN—Parking at the USU stadium was worse than usual Thursday—the lot was packed, but not with cars.

Thousands of kids, students and community members huddled in the wind, cameras ready, hands blocking the sun as they peered at a helicopter roaring overhead, all awaiting the promised once-in-a-lifetime spectacle.

Then the crowd cheered as 20,000 rainbow-colored bouncy balls fell from the helicopter hovering about 100 feet over the west side of the stadium lot.

“The balls just kept coming down and down,” said Linsey Johnson, president of the USU Society of Physics and a main organizer of the event. “It was fun to watch. There were little kids around that were really excited.”

What seemed to excite most audience members was not the world-record breaking ball-drop itself.

“It’s like it was raining bouncy balls,” said Phil Lundgreen, a junior majoring in mechanical engineering. “But then it kind of just turned into a free-for-all.”

Parks and Rec major Mellissa Kellett said, “It was exciting, we sat in a lucky spot, the balls all rolled toward us,” while holding several multicolored balls.

As the Mountain Ridge helicopter flew away, people rushed onto the roped-off area to grab as many balls as they could carry. Students and children stuffed their t-shirts and bags to the brim with bouncy balls.

Kim Butcher, a sophomore aviation major, said she was a little underwhelmed by the ball-drop itself, but was amazed at how many people came to see it.

ASUSU Science Senator Mike Stewart helped plan the event. He said the goal was to showcase the principles of science in a fun way and to bring attention to how space weather affects satellites and why people should be concerned about it.

The bouncy balls, which cost $12,000, were meant to symbolize space particles or electrons that bounce around and get stuck behind satellite weather shields, eventually causing the satellites to short-circuit and fail, Stewart said.

“People don’t think about it,” Stewart said, “but satellites are a part of your life all the time.” He said things such as communications, GPS, TV and weather reports all rely on satellites.

“If you enjoy knowing when a hurricane is coming, but the weather satellite goes down,” Stewart said, “that’s going to make things harder.”

The event, which was part of the College of Science Geek Week, helped raise funds for the Society of Physics through a raffle.

Johnson said money from the raffle will go to continue funding Society of Physics trips to elementary and middle schools in the valley. She said members give physics demonstrations to help kids get excited about science.

Johnson said the idea for ball-drop developed last semester when the Society of Physics was doing “haunted labs” for Halloween, and they decided to work with the Science Council to organize the event.

“It took a lot of meetings with people to get it approved,” Johnson said, adding that there were safety concerns to consider. “Police were here to make sure kids didn’t get trampled.”

Stewart said calculations were done—what height should balls drop from, how much of the parking lot should be sectioned off—to make the ball-drop safe.

“Balls are going to fly up and hit people,” Stewart said, “but very few will have the maximum energy to hurt someone.”


Tags: , , ,

Sorry, comments for this entry are closed at this time.