The Clare Foundation STEM Speakers Series Launches at EA
The Clare Foundation STEM Speakers Series Launches at EA

The newly-established Clare Foundation STEM Speakers Series launched this month at The Episcopal Academy with a lively production of That Physics Show.

Established through the generosity of the Clare Foundation, the goal of the specialized series is to expose students and faculty to dynamic, innovative, and creative thought leaders across a range of STEM areas and sectors. The series also offers faculty the opportunity to learn from both content area experts and STEM education leaders in an effort to improve pedagogy and practice. Discussions and ideas that are created from the Speaker Series will further expand curricular opportunities for students and may spark the development of new programs.

Speakers were selected from a variety of sectors (public, private and education) and from a range of STEM fields. The focus was on creating a diverse range of distinctive opportunities for the EA community, each of which is powerful in its own right, yet collectively are transformative in the teaching and learning process. Speakers selected for this series are leaders in their fields, each with an impressive record of accomplishment in their careers. Depending upon the area of expertise for each individual speaker, the day's events are uniquely planned to maximize learning across campus.

Parents and alumni are welcome to come to campus and join in on the exciting learning throughout the series. Future speakers include:

Feb. 1: Dr. Bonnie Bassler, Chair of the Molecular Biology Department at Princeton University

Feb. 12: Dr. Robert Sapolsky, Professor of Biology and Neurology at Stanford University

March 8: Dr. Talithia Williams, Associate Dean for Research and Experiential Learning and Associate Professor of Mathematics at Harvey Mudd College

Spring Date TBD: Dr. Craig McLauchlan, Chair of Chemistry from Illinois State University

Spring Date TBD: Dr. Gregory Ott, Senior Director of Medicinal Chemistry at Teva Pharmaceuticals

Spring Date TBD: Dr. Ralph Sando, Chief of Opthalmology Service at Bryn Mawr Hospital


First Session in STEM Series Wows Audiences

Physics demonstrator David Maiullo was the first of this year's seven speakers. He brought what can be a complicated subject alive for Middle School students with fun and visual hands-on experiments. The theme of the show was energy and how it is used to make sound, light, and to make things move.

Throughout the program, Maiullo echoed a simple question. "What do we do to find out?" Middle School students enthusiastically answered, "Try it!"

Maiullo explained that physics "is kind of like the Supreme Court of all of the sciences. The rules of physics kind of makeup biology, chemistry, engineering, and medicine. They have to follow the laws and rules that we have here in physics."

Maiullo opened the program with a demonstration of how mass and force interact. "Mass won't move without a force acting on it." Maiullo then yanked a tablecloth off of a set table, complete with a burning candle, and everything stayed in position. "That overcomes that static force of friction. Therefore, there is no other force on the table so they all stayed there perfectly in place, just like that."

Students were then wowed as a ping pong ball shot through a vacuum tube at 700 miles per hour.

"Every force is equal to mass times acceleration." Maiullo illustrated how force mass acceleration works by hitting a hammer on different masses: a sponge, block of wood, and a heavy lead brick. The sponge flew out into the audience. The wood block fell to the floor. The lead brick barely moved. "More mass, it doesn't accelerate as much." Then he placed the lead brick on his hand and pounded with the hammer. "I feel none of the hammer blow, that's how massive it is."

Through entertaining examples, the Rutgers University lecturer also taught students about gravitational pull, density and tone, sound and sound waves, and how light works.

To conclude the show, Maiullo sandwiched himself between two wooden boards with beds of 100 nails as two student volunteers stood on top of him. "I have two human beings on me," explained Maiullo. "It's not magic, it's all about the physics," specifically the concept of distribution of force. Maiullo's weight was distributed to one pound of force per nail. "The more nails there are, the less force per nail."