Science for Kids outreach program

On August 18th 2018, the UCLA Department of Physics and Astronomy put on an outreach event entitled “Science for Kids” at the Westfield Mall in Culver City under the direction of Prof. Ni.

Children from all ages were welcomed to tour the enclosure that was packed with different interactive demonstrations. The event had a "superconducting ping-pong game," a station dedicated to making "jelly from water-absorbent polymers," a "thermoelectric cooler," a "waterpark of hydrophobic surfaces," and a "mini-internet communication with optical fibers," etc.

All the demonstrations were aimed to help the kids understand how the discovery of new materials and their functions have shaped our everyday life.

Volunteers, including two professors from Pennsylvania State University, group members in Professor Ni’s lab, and students ranging from undergraduate to postdoc level in UCLA’s Department of Physics and Astronomy, participated in this event to inspire our future generation of scientists and engineers.
 
As soon as a child walked into the enclosure they had the option of putting on a lab coat and/or safety goggles. Each child was then encouraged to tour all the tables and question the hands-on demonstrations they performed.

After completing the full tour of the tables, children could take photos as a “scientist” with our poster and then carry on with their day, back to shopping and touring the mall.

Ni stated that "It sounds weird to hold a scientific outreach in a busy mall, but we want to reach out to kids from a broad spectrum of backgrounds and diversities. I was worried that we may not get enough kids, since parents come to the mall for shopping rather than science," Ni continued, "but it turned out to be a great success. We attracted an endless flow of kids and inspired them. Many parents thanked us for what we did for their kids and many kids walked away from the event saying that they would love to be a scientist in the future!"
 
The event was supported by the NSF Designing Materials to Revolutionize and Engineer our Future Program.