ScienceBlast at Mt Greylock

ScienceBlast is an annual collaboration between the Williams science department and the Mt Greylock 10th grade. MG students visit the Williams campus and participate in two hands-on workshops taught by Williams professors and staff.   Each year we look for Williams student volunteers to help with logistics and as lab assistants. See below 2018 ScienceBlast for a flavor of this wonderful event!

ScienceBlast Monday, May 14, 2018


Schedule of Events

8:55-9:10 Opening Remarks (Thompson Physics Lab –TPL 203)

Jose Constantine, Assistant Professor of Geosciences

9:15-10:15 Science Workshop, Session 1

10:20-10:35 Snack break on the Science Quad (Eco Café, rain location)

10:40 – 11:40 Science Workshop, Session 2

 11:45 Wrap-up and questions (Thompson Physics Lab –TPL 203)

12:00 pm Buses depart to Mt. Greylock

If you have any questions, please contact Kaatje White mailto:[email protected] 

Workshop Descriptions

Brightness and Distance in Astronomy
Steve Souza & Ethan Lopes (‘20) (Astronomy) Location: Thompson Physics Lab 301

One of the most important and difficult problems in astronomy is the accurate measurement of distances to stars, galaxies, etc. There are many methods, most based on trigonometry or the properties of light. We will explain and demonstrate how the relationship between apparent brightness and distance is used to determine distances of astronomical objects. We will also visit our rooftop observatory, and (safely) view the Sun, weather permitting.

Egg Drop Mathematics: It IS all it’s cracked up to be.
Steven Miller (Mathematics) Location: Clark Hall 204

Consider a building with N floors, labeled 1, 2, …, N and the following artificial problem (which we’ll see is connected to a lot of great modern mathematics). We have k identical eggs, and assume if an egg cracks when dropped from a floor it cracks from all floors higher, while if it doesn’t crack when dropped it suffers no damage and can be used again. We want to find the highest floor where we can safely drop eggs without their cracking in the least number of drops. How do we do this? And why do we care? 

Storms, Waves and Disappearing Beaches
José Constantine & Caroline Hung ‘19 (Geosciences) Location: Clark Hall 103

On a summer’s day, it may seem as if there’s enough sand to keep beaches around forever.  But on occasion, storms can whip up powerful waves that rip and tear away at the sand, dramatically eroding the coast.  Climate change is expected to strengthen these storms, and there is a well founded fear about the future of our beaches and coastal environments.  Working together, we’ll have the chance to generate our own waves to study beach erosion. We’ll even witness the remarkable ability of beaches to heal themselves, giving us hope for the future.

Science of Taste
Matt Carter (Biology) Location: Thompson Biology Lab 202
How does the tongue sense and perceive taste?  In this hands-on workshop, we will taste a variety of foods and describe what is occurring on the tongue at a biological and chemical level. We will also explore how the sense of smell contributes to the flavor of food, as well as the other factors that contribute to our enjoyment of food. Finally, we will have fun with some “gastronomical illusions,” in which the brain is fooled into thinking it tastes something different from what is present on the tongue.

Seeing the Invisible
Nate Cook & Anna Ringuette(‘19 (Chemistry) Location: Morley Scientific Lab 245

How do scientists measure the concentration of gases in the air, non-invasively visualize brain tumors, or determine the size and composition of planets and stars? In this hands-on session, we’ll learn about the science and instruments involved in the measurement of light by building your own Lego spectrometer! After, we’ll measure some test solutions and see how our DIY-Lego instrument compares to a much more expensive research grade spectrometer.

Physics of Chocolate Location: Thompson Physics Lab 215
Charlie Doret, Catherine Kealhofer, & Kate Jensen (Physics)

Most of us have some familiarity with the phases of matter—and the transformations between them—in the context of water, which boils to create steam or freezes to form ice.  But you might not know that the phases of many everyday materials have been carefully engineered to be stronger, tougher, or otherwise more useful. This includes glass, steel, plastics…and chocolate!  It turns out that there are at least six different solid phases of chocolate, but only one of them is the hard, glossy form that we like to eat. In this hands-on activity, we’ll explore how to control phase transformations, and then apply what we’ve learned to “temper” chocolate, making delicious treats to eat.

The Future of Computers Location: Thompson Chemistry Lab 206
Jeannie Albrecht, Dan Barowy, Andrea Danyluk, Iris Howley, & Bill Jannen (Computer Science)

Computer science is the study of the theory and design of computational systems.  The problems that computer scientists encounter range from the abstract–determining what problems can be solved with computers and the complexity of the algorithms that solve them–to the tangible–designing applications that perform well on handheld devices, are easy to use, and uphold security measures.  In this talk, members of the CS faculty will highlight key problems in several different subfields of computer science, including machine learning, human computer interaction, and distributed systems. We will also look at specific problem-solving strategies related to hashing and crowd-sourcing.