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PPPL’s booth is a crowd pleaser at Communiversity

Some 35,000 people attended Communiversity on Sunday, April 27, and many of them stopped by PPPL’s booth. There, they could take part in hands-on plasma demonstrations, view an ITER model and chat with scientists, engineers and staff members about the great work taking place at the Laboratory.

More than 20 PPPL’ers volunteered to staff PPPL’s booth, located next to Princeton University front gates on Nassau Street, where the music was loud but there was a steady crowd. The annual event, sponsored by Princeton University and the Arts Council of Princeton, features music, art, and performances and more than 200 booths staffed by both food and merchandise vendors and civic and University groups.

Michael Zarnstorff, PPPL’s deputy director for research, was one of several physicists who volunteered. “It’s always a thrill to be at Communiversity and have talks with everyone about the Lab and about progress in fusion,” Zarnstorff said. “It was essentially non-stop discussions and interactions.”    

Many people came by to try out the science activities. One of the most popular was a large vacuum jar with a marshmallow inside attached to a vacuum. Engineers Wenping Wang, John Lacenere, Bill Davis, and Mike Mardenfeld, and technician John Adams spent hours showing off the device. People in the crowd watched in fascination as the marshmallow puffed up when the vacuum was turned on and then shriveled into a small pebble when it was turned off.

Deedee Ortiz, a program administrator in PPPL’s Science Education department, showed children the Van De Graaff generator. “I thought that it was a great event,” Ortiz said. “It brought so many people together from the community and the interest in our booth was very high. People were very interested in what we do. And the kids loved the demos!”

The plasma speaker, which uses plasma to power an I-pod, was also a popular item. Another crowd pleaser was an electromagnet that pushes metal circles up a circular pole. People also admired the ITER model and asked about its history and future.

Volunteers handed out PPPL-logoed string bags, balls, as well as hundreds of brochures about the research taking place at PPPL.

Several other physicists, including George “Hutch” Neilson, head of advanced projects, and staff physicists Igor Kaganovich, Greg Hammett, Sam Lazerson, David Mikkelsen and Stuart Hudson were on hand to talk to the crowd about PPPL’s research.

Other volunteers included Dana Eckstein, an administrative assistant in the Facilities Department, engineers Henry Carnevale and Russell Feder and PPPL Webmaster Chris Cane. 

U.S. Department of Energy
Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory is a U.S. Department of Energy national laboratory managed by Princeton University.

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