CSU’s Little Shop of Physics makes science accessible to community, world

Julia Trowbridge

two kindergarten students shake a rope as it creates oscillations, or wave patterns,
Little Shop of Physics intern Ana Lopez shares the concept of wave physics, or how waves is made, with kindergarten students at on the Wind River Indian Reservation. Here, the waves can be seen between the nodes, or the points of the rope that aren’t moving up and down. (Photo courtesy of Adam Pearlstein)

Focusing on making science interesting and accessible for all, the Little Shop of Physics travels around the city, country and world to share their love of science.

The Little Shop of Physics, a science outreach organization, was founded 27 years ago by Brian Jones and has grown exponentially since then. The organization does outreach events for all ages and any location they can possibly go to.


“The first event was 27 years ago,” Jones said. “It was really small. I stated with one student, then two and it’s grown ever since.”

One of the focuses of their experiments is to make them low cost and in small kits, in order to increase accessibility.

“The big thing is that we want the science to be accessible,” said Heather Michalak, an outreach coordinator for Little Shop. “We want it to be interesting, and we want it to fit into a box.”

The most common outreach event the Little Shop does is showing their science kits to younger children. They try to focus on involving the children with the science and making the experience more hands-on, as opposed to showing a demonstration.

“It’s a much better way to learn, learning by doing,” said Damian Rupp, a junior studying physics at Colorado State University and an intern at Little Shop. “It teaches us too. The kids tend to break things and we have to fix them. It makes our job more hands on as well.”

The Little Shop also travels for their outreach events. In addition to going to different states, the organization has also gone out of the country. Last January during winter break, a group of students with Little Shop went to Todos Santos, Mexico, and brought their hands- on experiments.

Intern Spillar makes a face into the fresnel lens as a boy holds it to her face
Little Shop of Physics intern McKenna Spillar uses a fresnel lens to make her face appear larger than life. A fresnel lens is a compact lens that allows for magnification. (Photo courtesy of Adam Pearlstein)

“The event was after school,” Michalak said. “The kids didn’t have to come, but the whole village showed up.”

The Little Shop of Physics has a partnership with a corporation called B2Gold, which helps fund their out-of-country outreach project in Nambia, Africa. Their first visit was two years ago, and the experience was magical, Michalak said.

“I got to host a couple of astronomy meetings, and that was the first time any of them got to see their own night sky close up,” Michalak said. “It was just jaw dropping for them.”

The Little Shop takes in any student who wants to intern for them. Although most students are studying something in the STEM field, they have had students who were studying English or history, and were great contributions to the organization.

“We have three rules: you have to like kids, you have to like science and you have to look good in tie-dye,” Jones said. “If so, we’ll happily take you on.”


For some people who volunteer, the Little Shop becomes a community.

“It’s lots of fun,” Rupp said. “The people here are great. It’s like we’re our own little family.”

Upcoming event:

  • Little Shop of Physics Open House
  • Feb. 24, 2018
  • 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. in the LSC

Collegian Reporter Julia Trowbridge can be reached at entertainement@collegian.com or on twitter @chapin_jules.