SPS Demonstrations

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Outreach at Astronomy on the Mall 2017

Demonstrations for SPS Chapters

Looking for a new demonstration for an outreach event? Or want to jump start your chapter on outreach? These demonstrations have been developed by SPS to help you make a difference in your local communities. Each demonstration includes parts lists, instructions, key physical concepts to explain, and demonstration videos, where appropriate. Interested in contributing to this list?

Email sps-programs [at] aip.org

Fabric of the Universe

Explore forces in a gravitational field using a spandex sheet and marbles.

Fabric of the Universe Part 2

Explore solar system formation, tides, and planetary rings using a spandex sheet.

Composition of the Universe

This demonstration briefly explains the history of the universe using jars and colored beads.

Laser Hair's Width 

Participants will use a hair to show how light can interfere to produce a diffraction pattern.

Pinhole Projector

Construct a pinhole projector to introduce participants to the basic properties of light. This tool can then be used to view eclipses or other bright sources.

Eclipses: Earth-Moon-Sun Model

This demonstration uses a model of the earth-moon-sun system to explain why eclipses occur. This demo is useful for illustrating why total solar eclipses are rare. 

Light Fountain

This demonstration shows how light changes paths when travelling through different materials. Snell’s Law and the critical angle are explored using lasers and water. 

Density Column

This surprising demonstration illustrates the relationship between densities and buoyant forces.

Reflection & Refraction

This demonstration presents viewers with an example of reflection and refraction and describes difference between the two.

Marshmallows & the Speed of Light

This workshop uses marshmallows to teach participants about waves and to calculate the speed of light. 


This demonstration provides a three-dimensional visualization of magnetic field lines using ferrofluid.

Borate Glass

Students learn about glass, how glass is formed, and under what conditions that can occur. 

Straw Oboe

By constructing a simple straw “oboe,” participants learn about sound waves and closed pipe resonance. 

Polarization of Light

This demonstration explains transverse waves and some surprising properties of polarizers.

Off-Grid Phone Charger

Constructing this simple and inexpensive portable cellphone charger provides an introduction to soldering and electronics.

Variable Index of Refraction

A sugar-water solution is used to create a liquid with a variable index of refraction. Participants learn about solutions, gradients, and refraction.

Impulse on Eggs

Participants learn about impulse by building vehicles to drop eggs in. 

Egg Crush

This demonstration dramatically shows how not just the strength of a material, but how it is designed, is important when withstanding forces.

Homopolar Motor

Participants learn the everyday science of electric motors in this fun and engaging workshop activity. 

Eddy Currents

By dropping a magnet through a copper tube, participants learn how the magnetics fields can still interact with nonmagnetic materials.