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Dr. Elwood Schapansky teaches Foothill Elementary School students about science.

Lyz Hoffman

Dr. Elwood Schapansky teaches Foothill Elementary School students about science.


Physics for Fun’

Retired SBCC Professor Teaches Kids About the World Around Them


Monday, March 1, 2010

Blissfully ignorant to the chemistry behind their chocolate chip cookies in-hand, a bevy of Foothill Elementary School students (grades K-6) fell in love with physics on February 25.

There to facilitate said love was retired SBCC physics professor Dr. Elwood Schapansky. Now a glacier pilot in Talkeetna, Alaska, six months out of the year (the other half is spent in Santa Barbara), Dr. Schapansky chose Goleta’s Foothill School for his seminar for a very familial reason: his grandchildren attend.

And attend the “Physics for Fun” event they did — along with 100 or so other Foothill students and parents. An evening that might have appeared to be meant merely for “magic” (as one excited student put it) was, according to Dr. Schapansky, really more of a means of spreading a message.

Citing the popularity of iPhones, Facebook, and Twitter, Dr. Schapansky believes that today’s “virtual world” has eroded hands-on science. “You can learn how to use those devices without any understanding of how they work,” he said, adding, “I fear for the future of science in America and I want to do what I can to help develop strong programs with interested and active students.”

With a roster of everything from air pressure and Newton’s laws (“the most important laws that exist,” according to Dr. Schapansky), to rotational motion and electricity, Dr. Schapansky’s program did indeed incite interest, providing the kids with some simple demonstrations of some not-so-simple processes. To make matters even more interesting — or, rather, wonderfully mundane — was the fact that all of Dr. Schapansky’s presentation materials were everyday items, such as bicycle tires, batteries, and hammers. “All of these things are things I have in my garage,” he said.

Dr. Schapansky expressed one of his most personal beliefs: “Knowledge is power.” Hence his satisfaction come the event’s conclusion. “I am happy,” Dr. Schapansky said. “I feel like I’m making a little bit of a difference.”

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