2023 ASTRODAY: Science at the mall! UH Hilo’s Department of Physics and Astronomy set up an area filled with interactive displays for keiki.
By Susan Enright.
The 21st Annual AstroDay, a free science and astronomy event put on for the public and geared toward keiki, was held on May 6 this year at the Prince Kūhiō Plaza in Hilo. The event sponsored by the Maunakea Observatories and coordinated by the University of Hawaiʻi Institute for Astronomy brings together dozens of volunteers from myriad organizations on Hawaiʻi Island, Maui, and Oʻahu to present science and technology activities and demonstrations to hundreds of keiki and adults. UH Hilo’s Department of Physics and Astronomy program always participates.
At Saturday’s AstroDay, faculty and students from the physics and astronomy program set up an area filled with interactive science displays for keiki. The event was very well attended, with an estimated turnout of about 800 to 1000 persons throughout the day.
“We talked to several hundreds of keiki, using several interactive physics and astronomy demonstrations,” says R. Pierre Martin, an associate professor of physics and astronomy. “Hundreds of diffraction glasses were given with other swag and we displayed diverse activities done in our department, including a gallery of astrophotos taken by our students.”
Also from the UH Hilo Department of Physics and Astronomy were Professor Marianne Takamiya, Assistant Professor Heather Kaluna, and others from the UH Hilo campus who entertained and educated keiki with interesting and fun science activities.
“Our booth was attended by several other physics and astronomy faculty members as well as several of our undergraduate students, who did a fabulous job interacting with the attendees,” says Martin.
Two of the group’s demos were among the most popular that day: The solar lasso, where people could try to capture the sun pillows with a lasso, following the famous legend of Maui capturing the sun with a lasso to slow its motion down through the sky.
The other very popular physics exhibit was the Van De Graaff generator, where keiki could explore the wonders and unsuspected effects of electrical charges accumulated on a metallic sphere.
“We also had an interesting experiment on how sound vibrations can be translated into projected visual motions from a laser beam,” says Martin.
AstroDay in Hilo is an annual event (except during the years of the pandemic) and the UH Hilo Department of Astronomy and Physics has participated every year since its beginning. The event is celebrated in the spring in Hilo around International Astronomy Day, a world-wide event that honors all facets of astronomy. In the fall, AstroDay is also celebrated in Kona.
Story by Susan Enright, a public information specialist for the Office of the Chancellor and editor of UH Hilo Stories. She received her bachelor of arts in English and certificate in women’s studies from UH Hilo.