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Cassandra Stewart had her sights set on chemistry, but by the end of the day she was ready to give physics a chance.
"I like physics already but I didn't think it was as cool as chemistry," the 17-year old Cyprus High School senior said after a physics demonstration at Science Day at the U. "Now I think it's kind of up there with chemistry."
More than 900 students woke early Saturday to attend the event. The program, which began in the late 1980s, offers high school students an introduction to science education and research at the university.
It's the school's largest recruitment event, with invitations to students from 150 schools. Those who attended had either expressed interest in science or teachers nominated them. The event, however, was open to all students who registered.
"It's a record-breaking crowd. We've never had this many students," said Brian Saam, associate dean of the College of Science. "As late as six or seven years ago, I say we only had half of this number."
This year, numbers increased 10 to 15 percent from the past couple of years. Some students come as far as Idaho, Wyoming and the St. George area. During the half-day-long programs, students get academic advice from professors about specifics majors or science-related careers.
A clear message has been sent in recent years that pathways to real sustainable, high-paying jobs and economic impact are those that require training in sciences like engineering, math and technology. That message is getting to students, Saam said.
Divided in color-coded groups, students chose from 61 different workshops that covered 31 specific research fields including "The Mathematics of Google," "Biology of a Bacteria" and "Whales that Don't Want to be Seen."
At the "How to Become Invisible Without a Cloak" workshop, instructor Fernando Guevara Vasquez explained the mathematics behind his and colleagues' research on a device to make an object invisible.
A roomful of students intrigued by the idea followed Vasquez's formulas, chalkboard diagrams and hypotheticals.
"It was a cool concept. It was a little confusing with all the math," said Ryan Porter, a West Jordan High School junior. "The equations are hard but the concept is a little easier to get."
The workshops "The Explosives and Explosions" and "Demolicious Physics" drew large crowds, filling the lecture halls where they were held.
Physics lecture demonstration specialist Adam Beehler had the students intrigued with demos on gravity, velocity and properties of air. Using a Tesla coil, he explained electricity. He shot a pingpong ball through three soda cans to explain how pressure and air work. Students were in awe as Beehler showed the results of propelling a sharpened pencil and an unsharpened pencil through a piece of wood.
"It shows you how electricity and stuff is within your day. How dangerous it can be but also fun, which makes it more exciting," Stewart said of Beehler's lively presentation. "This made me want to go into science more."