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.”
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
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.