SCHUYLKILL HAVEN — On her first visit to Penn State Schuylkill cam­pus, 9-year-old Lyla Stager had a hair-rais­ing ex­pe­ri­ence.

She had a feel­ing of what would hap­pen when she vol­un­teered for an ex­per­i­ment con­ducted by Penn State physics teacher Michael R. Gal­lis to test the prop­er­ties of static elec­tric­ity.

“It looked cool,” Stager said, ex­plain­ing why she raised her hand.

“Things with the same charge re­pel, so if we give her body a charge, in­clud­ing her hair, the pieces of hair re­pel each other. So they ap­pear to stand up,” Gal­lis ex­plained to Stager and the 126 other third-grade stu­dents from Pine Grove Area El­e­men­tary on Tues­day at the Health and Wellness Cen­ter.

To do the trick, he used a bas­ket­ball-sized silver sphere at­tached to a cylin­dri­cal stand. It’s called a Van de Graaff gen­er­a­tor. An elec­tro­static gen­er­a­tor, it had a mech­a­nism inside that spun a rub­ber band to gen­er­ate an elec­tric charge.

“There’s fric­tion cre­at­ing the static elec­tric­ity,” Gal­lis said.

When Stager touched the globe, it made the loose ends of her shoul­der-length brown hair rise. The crowd laughed and clapped.

“I felt a cou­ple shocks here and there,” she said.

Last year, Gal­lis treated the Pine

Grove Area third-grade class vis­it­ing Penn State Schuylkill to a half-hour sci­ence les­son that played out like a magic show. On Tues­day, he re­peated the per­for­mance.

“My goal is to get them ex­cited about STEM (Sci­ence, Tech­nol­ogy, En­gi­neer­ing and Math­e­mat­ics),” Gal­lis said.

One of his as­sis­tants, Jor­dan Pelachick, also demon­strated how static elec­tric­ity works us­ing a wand and a piece of my­lar. The wand also had one of those mech­a­nisms inside, and when Pelachick waved it, he made the rib­bon ap­pear to dance.

Pelachick, 25, is a Penn State Schuylkill sopho­more study­ing in­for­ma­tion sciences and tech­nol­ogy.

Since 2004, Pine Grove Area has made ef­forts to bring the third-grade class to the col­lege, Michelle Brand, a school coun­selor at Pine Grove Area, said.

“I think we did it in 2004 and then off and on,” she said.

The third-grade class vis­ited the cam­pus in 2008 and a few other times over the years, in­clud­ing last year.

The visit is meant to en­cour­age stu­dents start­ing at a young age to think about higher ed­u­ca­tion.

“For many of them, it’s the first time they’ve been here, and it’s the first time they set foot on a col­lege cam­pus. We want to show them there is ed­u­ca­tion be­yond just school, and ed­u­ca­tion is life-long learn­ing. No mat­ter what, you can al­ways learn. And you should al­ways reach out and gain that knowl­edge,” Brand said. “The trans­porta­tion came out of our cur­ricu­lum bud­get. Penn State of­fers to pay for their lunch.”

The stu­dents were served pizza, she said.

With them were Pine Grove Area teach­ers in­clud­ing Amy Jo Brix­ius, Jena Kramer, Abe Hitz, Pat Reimer, Se­lena Slackus and Brand’s sis­ter, An­gela.

The vis­i­tors trav­eled around cam­pus to var­i­ous sta­tions at which they in­ter­acted with cam­pus fac­ulty, staff and stu­dents, and were able to learn about the cam­pus and higher ed­u­ca­tion.

For ex­am­ple, a group of stu­dents vis­ited the Aca­demic Re­source Cen­ter and were given a chance to do arts and crafts with Dar­lene Young, a math spe­cial­ist at the col­lege.

An­other group of stu­dents, in­clud­ing Stager, Khloe Len­gel and Andrew Fehr, vis­ited the Ad­min­is­tra­tion Build­ing, where Janelle L. H. Gru­ber, the cam­pus di­rec­tor of ad­mis­sions, talked about the cam­pus with a slide show pre­sen­ta­tion.

“So you’re here at Penn State Schuylkill today. It’s the clos­est cam­pus to Pine Grove. It prob­a­bly took you, what, 20 min­utes to get here on the bus? It’s a pretty straight shot,” Gru­ber said. “We have about 800 stu­dents here on cam­pus and we have about 100 acres. So it’s a big prop­erty. I’ll tell you, you’re not go­ing to walk all 100 acres today. Most of our build­ings are in one part of the cam­pus. So you won’t have to walk that much. We have stu­dents that live on cam­pus. They’re called res­i­den­tial stu­dents. We have apart­ments and stu­dents live there. And we have com­muter stu­dents who live close to the cam­pus, like all of you, and stay with their fam­i­lies and come here for classes.”

“This is my first time here. It’s a pretty neat school,” Stager said.

When asked what she wants to do when she grows up, Stager said with a breath of hon­esty, “I want to be a fa­mous softball player.”

DAvid MCKE­Own / StAff PhOtOgrAPhEr

aBOVE: Pine Grove Area third-grader Lyla Stager’s hair stands on end as she holds a

Van de Graaff gen­er­a­tor Tues­day dur­ing the class’ an­nual visit to Penn State Schuylkill. RIGhT: Jor­dan M. Pelachick, right, sopho­more at Penn State Schuylkill, demon­strates how static elec­tric­ity works us­ing a wand and a piece of my­lar as Mike Gal­lis, as­so­ciate pro­fes­sor of physics at Penn State Schuylkill, looks on. For the

full story,


Mike Gal­lis, as­so­ciate pro­fes­sor of physics at Penn State Schuylkill, moves a beach ball around with a leaf blower Tues­day dur­ing Pine Grove’s an­nual visit to Penn State Schuylkill.

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