Students From the Pennsylvania Cyber Charter School Discuss Physics, Education With Nation's Top Graduate Students

Feb 03, 2012, 09:47 ET from Pennsylvania Cyber Charter School

MIDLAND, Pa., Feb. 3, 2012 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- It's every high school science nerd's dream: an opportunity to chat with graduate students and ask about all kinds of stranger-than-fiction physics phenomena. That dream was realized for nearly twenty Pennsylvania Cyber Charter School (PA Cyber) students who are members of the Cutting Edge Science (CES) Club, a highly interactive extracurricular program that explores a wide variety of science topics.

With several club members interested in the physics phenomena, for their January meeting, CES advisor Caroline Hardman arranged for a special online discussion with Hiro Miyake, a graduate student at MIT, and Nabil Iqbal, a Post-Doctoral Fellow at the University of Santa Barbara's Kavli Institute of Theoretical Physics and a former graduate student at MIT.

Miyake studies matter at temperatures billionths of degrees above absolute zero with lasers. Iqbal's work focuses on attempting to understand the physics of black holes in the framework provided by string theory.

Using the online application Blackboard Collaborate, CES Club members were able to chat in real time with Miyake and Iqbal on the topics of ultracold atoms and string theory, as well as learn how these men first became interested in physics.

"The online discussion was a very interesting and fun experience," said Iqbal. "It's great that with this technology we can reach out to students from all over the country very easily and still have interactive discussions."

CES club member Natalie Janosik was particularly interested when the discussion turned to cosmic physics. She has been determined to investigate and form a theory about the physical structure of the Universe. Fellow club member Gianfranco Trovato, who is planning to apply to MIT to study physics, was disappointed there was no in-depth math theory accompanying the chat but knows he'll have a chance to do so in the future.

"I was very happy to teach a class of this sort to students who are nowhere near us. I was also pleased that the students were so interested and asked so many penetrating questions," said Miyake.  "It is always a pleasure to teach a class that is so excited."

That interest and excitement is what motivates Hardman, and club co-advisors Mandy Howison and Jennifer Cramer, to continue to pursue opportunities like this for their students. Every month, CES Club students explore a new topic and meet new guests through a live video chat. As Hardman plans each CES Club event, she considers how a passion for science is being sparked in students. "I hope that these students will retain that passion throughout their lives," she said, much like Miyake and Iqbal, both of whom became interested in science and physics at a young age. "And it is thrilling for us to reach students reach students who appreciate the opportunities and camaraderie that the club offers." 

Hardman, Howison and Cramer are all educators employed by Lincoln Interactive, a developer and provider of online curriculum. Hardman produces Lincoln Interactive's Cutting Edge Science curriculum, which is used by PA Cyber; Howison and Cramer teach high school science for Lincoln Interactive.

The CES program exposes students to everyday STEM topics with new twists and perspectives. The program also allows students to explore the relationship between the different fields of study, such as research and technology, or math and engineering. Additionally, the program typically features guests from Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL), the world's premier research institution. LANL has actively collaborated with the Cutting Edge Science program since 2009.

The Pennsylvania Cyber Charter School:
The Kavli Institute of Theoretical Physics at UCSB:

SOURCE Pennsylvania Cyber Charter School