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Physics matters at Loyola with NanoDays, fundraising Kilimanjaro climb

Loyola press release - March 19, 2012

Douglas Alexander, a physics junior at Loyola University New Orleans, is training to climb Mount Kilimanjaro as a fundraiser to support physics programs in New Orleans area schools. His goal is to raise enough money through his nonprofit, “Climbing Kilimanjaro for the Physics of Tomorrow,” to purchase and distribute packages of physics demonstrations for approximately 27 public/charter high schools in Orleans, Jefferson and St. Bernard parishes. Money raised will provide schools with physics equipment like force tables, resonance tubes, electronic balances and ballistic pendulums.

Alexander plans to climb the mountain in July and hopes to have the physics equipment donated in time for the 2012-13 school year. Since he began taking pledges and donations in December, he has raised enough money to buy equipment for three schools, McDonogh 35 College Preparatory High School, Martin Luther King Jr. High School and Thomas Jefferson High School.

The idea of linking physics with an already-planned climb of Mount Kilimanjaro came to Alexander during a physics lecture at Loyola last semester. “We were talking about gravitational forces and how people weigh slightly less when they are at very high altitudes,” Alexander said, “I thought about how one day, when I get to the summit of Kilimanjaro, I'm going to weigh slightly less than I do now in physics class. I just couldn't get the idea out of my head after that.”

He wanted to share his love of physics with New Orleans area high school students whose schools didn’t have basic physics equipment. Alexander noted that while in high school, his physics classes didn’t typically showcase fun experiments. Things exploded in chemistry labs and animals were dissected in biology labs, but when it came to physics, Alexander said that all students are exposed to are a lot of confusing math problems. So the idea was born to use his planned climb of the mountain as a way to raise money to purchase physics equipment for schools in need.

“Hopefully these classroom enhancements will make the subject of physics slightly less intimidating and more interesting to the students. The next Nikola Tesla or Albert Einstein may be right here in New Orleans,” Alexander said.

Those wishing to donate to Alexander’s fundraiser can do so through his website, www.nolaphysics.org, where donations can be made through PayPal or by check. People can sponsor a school for $350, which will cover the cost of three pieces of physics equipment, or they can make an individual donation at any level.

Faculty and staff in Loyola’s Department of Physics are also working to make physics more exciting by hosting NanoDays 2012, a nationwide festival of educational programs about nanoscale science and engineering, on Thursday, March 29 from 11 a.m. – 4 p.m. in the St. Charles room of the Danna Student Center. The event is free and open to the public.

NanoDays, organized by the Nanoscale Informal Science Education Network, explores nanoscale science and its potential impact on the future. This community-based event is the largest public outreach effort in nanoscale informal science education and involves science museums, research centers and universities from Puerto Rico to Alaska.

NanoDays celebrations bring university researchers together with students to explore the miniscule world of atoms, molecules and nanoscale forces. The programs combine hands-on activities with presentations on current research to demonstrate the special and unexpected properties found at the nanoscale, examine tools used by nanoscientists, showcase nanomaterials with spectacular promise and invite discussion of technology and society.

For more information or to schedule an interview with Alexander, contact Meredith Hartley in Loyola’s Office of Public Affairs, at mhartley@loyno.edu or 504-861-5883. Those who wish to learn more about the fundraiser may contact Alexander at nolaphysics@yahoo.com.