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Cleveland State University Society of Physics Students Highlight Solar Eclipse in Latest Outreach Project

Cleveland State University Society of Physics Students Highlight Solar Eclipse in Latest Outreach Project

Long before the first total solar eclipse since 1806, which is set to cast Cleveland in complete darkness for nearly four minutes on April 8, Cleveland State University's chapter of the Society of Physics Students (SPS) was busy finding a way to shine a spotlight the upcoming phenomenon during its latest outreach project.  
The University’s chapter of the SPS and Patrick Herron, its president and a CSU master’s student, were presented the national organization’s Marsh W. White Outreach Award in late January for physics outreach to K-12 students. It is the 12th Marsh White Award that Cleveland State’s SPS chapter has won since 2011, according to Herron.  
Herron, who won Outstanding Physics Senior and the Undergraduate Physics Teaching Assistant Award from Cleveland State in 2023, said the significance of the Marsh White Award ultimately separated itself from the other awards he has won during his time at CSU. 
“Even if it’s just a little fourth grader coming up to you and saying they want to be like you when they grow up, they want to be a scientist, they want to be a physicist, it’s really special,” he said. “The Marsh White Award is for our entire department at Cleveland State, and it’s the most far outreaching. It definitely means the most to me because of all of that.” 
Past and Present 
When Cleveland State’s chapter last received the award in 2022, it had partnered with BioMed Science Academy in Rootstown, Ohio, to coordinate a Spring semester program that focused on light waves and their applications in the bioengineering and biomedical fields. It was among a handful of chapters from across the country to receive the 2022 Marsh W. White award, including chapters from the University of Central Florida, Wofford College, Missouri Southern State University and Tuskegee University, among others.  
This year’s project, “Outreach Totality: Eclipse based Outreach-Teaching Experience,” featured a partnership among the SPS, the Cleveland Public Libraries (CPL) and Hathaway Brown, a K-12 all-girls school based in Shaker Heights. In the first phase of the project, “First Sighting,” the SPS taught Hathaway Brown high school students how to teach about the solar eclipse before providing outreach to their first-grade students, Herron said, which included planetary models to show how the eclipse works and safe viewing practices. 

“The outreach done at HB is powerful,” Herron said. “Not only are the students learning about the eclipse, but they also get the experience of teaching it to others.  

“This not only gives them even more knowledge on the subject, but [it] can create even more students passionate about scientific outreach. This extends our outreach even further so we can spread our knowledge and joy of science with as many students as possible.” 
Janna Mino, the director of Fellowships in Science Research and Engineering at Hathaway Brown, played a key role in training the 9-12 grade students in outreach techniques. The CSU physics and chemistry alumna and former SPS outreach coordinator highlighted how important events like this can be to getting students involved in and excited about science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) as a whole. 
“For the kids who are experiencing and having fun with these outreach opportunities, I think it goes a long way just to show them that it’s fun, cool and interesting,” Mino said. “It shows them that they belong here, and they can do this.   
“I think we are born scientists,” she added. “We are curious in our nature. When we can celebrate and have fun with it, I think that’s a really beautiful and important thing.” 
A Student-led Effort 
Dr. Kiril A Streletzky, a professor of physics and SPS chapter faculty advisor at Cleveland State, emphasized that the project was a student-led effort. Though he provides help where he can, he said the students are the ultimate driving force behind the ideas for the Marsh M. White Outreach projects through the years.   
“I saw that it’s really inspiring to do that,” Dr. Streletzky said. “It really was important for the students [to own the outreach ideas], and it really became important for me as well.”  
High school students from Hathaway Brown collaborated with CSU’s SPS to bring solar eclipse outreach to Cleveland students in the outreach project’s second phase titled, “Outreach Totality,” working through Friday after-school programs at five branches of the CPL. Tara Peppard, laboratory manager from CSU’s Department of Physics, organized the collaboration.  
“This outreach unified the community in preparation and celebration of a rare and wondrous astronomical event,” Peppard said. “It was a great pleasure and honor to collaborate with the Cleveland Public Library and to witness such enthusiasm and dedication among the Cleveland State University Society of Physics Students and Hathaway Brown students presenting to and interacting with the public.  

“If we could have reached all 27 neighborhood branches, we would have,” she said. “We look forward to future collaborations with the CPL where we can continue to inspire a greater understanding of the universe and a love of physics.” 
The eclipse will be unique since the moon will be the closest to the Earth that it gets in its orbit, Herron said. He also stressed the importance of safety, including that viewers must always use safe solar viewing glasses or a handheld solar viewer when watching a solar eclipse directly with their eyes, according to NASA. It’s important to note that binoculars, cameras and telescopes require different solar filters and should not be used with solar viewing glasses or handheld solar viewers.    
Highlight of Eight Epic Days in The Land 
The eclipse can be an incredible opportunity to show what Cleveland has to offer, a point on which Streletzky and Herron agree.  
“It’s important that we can all get behind science for a little while, even if only for a day, and all share that together and learn something,” Herron said. “That’s why we’re trying to do as much as we are this semester for it.” 
The eclipse will serve as a highlight of eight epic days in #TheLand. Other events include the Cleveland International Film Festival at Playhouse Square, the NCAA women’s Final Four at Rocket Mortgage FieldHouse, the home opener for the Cleveland Guardians at Progressive Field and the 2024 Cleveland Thyagaraja Festival on CSU’s campus.  
The College of Arts and Sciences will also host its own eclipse-related activities on the campus of CSU, organized by the Department of Physics and SPS. To learn more about what’s planned, click here.