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University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Department of Physics
University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Physics Van is fun!
Physics Van is fun!
Physics Van is fun!
Physics Van is fun!
Physics Van is fun!
Physics Van is fun!

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Physics Van: FAQs Asked by Volunteers

About Shows

About Volunteering


What topics does a typical Physics Van show cover?
Our show consists of about 15 demonstrations on 5 different topics: The States of Matter, Air, Newton's Laws, Electricity, and Light. For more information on the demos themselves, you can look at our Demo Descriptions.

How far does the Physics Van travel?
Because of time constraints, we are USUALLY unable to travel more than one hour from Champaign-Urbana. Roughly speaking, this is as far West as Bloomington-Normal and as far East as the Illinois-Indiana border. And, of course, we always try to have a few shows on the U of I campus.

How long does a typical Physics Van show last?
Our standard show lasts a little less than an hour. Add to that time for set-up and travel to get between a two and four hour commitment for a show depending on how far away it is. (Note: The times posted on our calendar pages always include the set-up and travel time.)

What age range does the Physics Van target?
Our show is best suited for kids in grades K-6. In general, we are not able to do shows for Junior High or High School audiences. However, we do sometimes do shows for general audiences, i.e. at museums, state fairs, and Engineering Open House.

Do I need to know any physics/have any prior teaching experience to join the Physics Van?
No! We'll teach you everything you need to know about physics to do our presentations. Remember, our shows target kindergarten through sixth grade, so you already know everything you need to, we just need to refresh your memory a little.

Do I need to be a physics major or engineer to join the Physics Van?
No! We've had volunteers from every college and almost every department on campus. Our goal is to get everyone excited about science!

How much is the time commitment?
As much or as little as you’d like! The time commitment for a single show ranges from about two to four hours (depending on how far away the school is). But the number of shows you come to is up to you, just come when you have the free time or need the break from classes.

How do I get to the shows?
Meet up with the rest of the volunteers at the South-East Corner of Loomis, and we’ll all ride out in the van together.(Please watch your email for any changes to the usual meeting place!) Sometimes, we will ask a volunteer to drive as well if we can’t all fit in the van, but you will not be expected to provide your own transportation.

Will I have to do a demonstration at my first show?
No. Usually, new volunteers participate as helpers in some demonstrations and/or help out by taking pictures of the show for our website. Unless you have experience with science outreach and really want to do a demo, you will not have to present at your first show.

When do I get to do my first demonstration?
Most volunteers do their first demo at their third show. At your first show, watch and get an overall feel of the show and the demos. At your second show, pick one or two demos you really like and watch carefully as the experienced volunteer presents them so that you will feel comfortable presenting one of them at your third show.

How do I know when the Physics Van shows/meetings are?
Our calendar is posted online here. Also, you should contact us and make sure to get on our email list to get email announcements of our upcoming events.

I don't have time to/can't/don't want to do shows, is there some other way I can get involved?
The Physics Van also runs a question-answer site where you can answer questions submitted by kids from all over the world! We are also always in need of volunteers for on-campus activities (such as EOH in the spring).

When do I get my FREE Physics Van T-Shirt?
After you've done your first demonstration in a show!