Friday, July 27, 2012

Clear Eyes Full Hearts

When I first walked into the David Rittenhouse Laboratory four weeks ago, I must confess to some butterflies about spending so much time away from home, studying with intimidatingly smart people from around the world. Now it’s time to leave, and I find that I don’t want to go. I feel so lucky to have spent this time with my incredible peers, at a beautiful university, with such good teachers. I may not ever see most of these people ever again, but I know that they’ve helped shape me into a new person over the past four weeks.
Today, the Hershey Park groups gave presentations about each of their rides. My group analyzed the wooden coaster Wildcat. We showed graphs of our acceleration in the x, y, and z directions (side to side, height, longitudinal) and explained how they related to the altitude graph, which was basically a schematic of the ride itself. We also did a little algebra to find the maximum speed and acceleration. Each group had presentations similar to ours, but each group added their own twist to the presentation. Some groups focused more on calculations, while others compared their own data with the statistics offered on the Hershey Park website. Each presentation was unique and easy to understand. I thought that every group did a good job presenting their data in a clear, concise format.
Saying goodbye to Ryan and Craig

After the presentations, it was time for the farewell speeches. Eli popped in to thank us for a wonderful summer and wish us luck in our future endeavors. He also thanked Bill for being such an amazing educator, at which point we all burst out clapping. Bill also gave a brief speech about how much this program means to him.
He told us that we were all wonderful people and that we should never lose sight of the things within ourselves that matter to us. He also thanked Ryan, Craig, and Penny for helping him make this program possible, as he is “not a responsible adult.” If Bill is the definition of an irresponsible adult, then I definitely want to be one when I grow up. His combined passions for teaching and physics are inspirational, and his teaching style helped make modern physics fun and accessible over the past four weeks.

Bill also included a surprise announcement in the middle of his speech–a shout out to the ILC, telling our classmates to check out our blogs to find out what kind of horrible rumors we were spreading about them throughout the month. I was also startled to discover that Bill, Ryan, Craig, and Penny have been reading our blogs ever since the program started; I hope that they’ve enjoyed them. If you are reading this now, thank you for an amazing four weeks at PSSA. All of you are wonderful teachers, and you made my summer one-of-a-kind.

I felt like the whole program was over when class ended, but we still had an entire afternoon on our hands. I finished packing, went to Pod for dinner with Christine, Clara, and two of my floormates, and attended the talent show. My floor screamed especially loudly when Rosemary, who lives a few doors down, gave a heart-wrenching rendition of A Time To Say Goodbye. Her incredible talent aside, it was a nice change to hear something new after so many pop songs. I also found her selection particularly appropriate, as we’re all going our separate ways tomorrow. Mr. Lawrence is going to pick us up at 8 AM to do a little sightseeing before heading to the airport.

I will miss my roommate, my classmates, and my teachers, but although I’m sad to be leaving, I can’t help feeling so thankful and happy that this happened at all. Everyone here had such a unique perspective on the world and I learned so much from them all. Thanks to everyone who made it possible for me to be here, at UPenn, learning physics with the coolest teacher in the world and the best classmates ever. I leave with clear eyes and a heart full of the experience of a lifetime.

Bill and the PSSA chapter of the Penn cohort

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