By Nicholas Bainbridge// News Editor
Journey to Mars is the promotional tagline spouted by the organizers of HPUniverse Day, an annual outreach event by the HPU Department of Physics to get young people in the community interested in the subject. From 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. on Sept. 29, Couch Hall will be welcoming people to campus to participate in the fifth annual rendition of the event.
The open event, requiring neither prior registration nor entry payments, will feature 25 different activities and experiments designed to foster a fascination with science, such as riding on a fully functional hovercraft and launching bottle rockets into the air to demonstrate propulsion forces.
According to Dr. Brad Barlow, HPU’s assistant professor of astrophysics, the event was motivated by a desire and obligation to use exciting astronomy-themed events to encourage youth to pursue careers not just in space-themed fields, but in all manner of scientific disciplines.
“Astronomy has often been referred to as the ‘gateway drug’ of the sciences; it is easily accessible to the public, and almost every person at some point in her or his life will ponder what’s out there in the vastness of space,” said Barlow. “The excitement and passion kids exhibit while considering what’s in our universe often leads them to become not only astronomers but chemists, biologists, engineers and physicists.”
This is why not all of the events are inherently tied to space but would be relevant to someone pursuing a career involving astronomy. For example, in addition to rocket experiments, there will also be events focused on robotics using the LEGO WeDo products, which would give elementary level insight that can be built upon to eventually understand the complex mechanics of machinery like the Mars Rover used in space exploration.
Another prominent addition is a new 3D laser printer. 3D printers have a myriad of convenient applications for creating tools and materials with limited manufacturing machinery, so they may prove invaluable in space exploration.
In speaking of the Mars Rover, the theme of this year’s HPUniverse Day is Journey to Mars, and a great level of resources will be dedicated to helping sell the experience of being a future explorer of the desolate 4th rock from the sun.
“Kids will be greeted as if they’re coming to Couch Hall for training for a mission to travel to Mars and explore its surface. Each of our traditional exploration stations will be ‘marketed’ towards this theme,” said Barlow.
One of the most celebrated additions to the event is the HPU Mobile Lab, a former transportation shuttle that made use of the 2016 Think Big! Grant awarded to Professors Neil Coffield, Veronica Segarra and Melissa Srougi to create an experimental biology and chemistry focused laboratory that can be moved all over the community. At the HPUniverse day event, the Mobile Lab will be teaching prospective researchers how to properly use microscopes to study small samples.
The event, which will take place at Couch Hall, has an expected turnout of 1000 visitors. They will have support from 100 faculty, students and volunteers to help them ensure they are able to inspire as many young people to pursue a career in science as possible.
HPUniverse Day, hosted by the Department of Physics, will be held from 6 to 9 p.m. on Sept. 29 in front of Couch Hall. Photo submitted