Public Star Night 20 May 2016 – Christl Findling – “An Atmosphere Worth Pursuing”

Our guest speaker for Friday May 20, 2016 will be Christl Findling from Ball Aerospace. The title of her talk will be “An Atmosphere worth pursuing”

A small vacuum chamber, a balloon, a marshmallow, a can of shaving cream and a bowl of water – these may not seem like the typical contents of an engineer’s toolbox, but for Manufacturing Engineer Christl Findling, they are exactly what she needs to connect kids to the wonderful world of science. Once or twice a year, she takes the day off and talks to elementary and middle school students and scout troops about space exploration and atmospheric pressure. It makes for a long day, but she feels that it positively impacts the students; it gets them excited about science education and careers.

She started doing these presentations about five years ago at the elementary school that her kids went to. Her daughter was in the space exploration section of the class and the teacher requested that she do a presentation, knowing that she worked at Ball Aerospace. She had seen a great presentation at the Denver Museum of Nature and Science’s Space Exhibit so she just modeled her presentation after theirs. Materials and Process Engineer Tracy Copp and Christl Findling borrowed a vacuum chamber from the Environmental Test lab and put together this presentation. They sort of winged it!

Since then, the presentation has evolved over the years. Now, for school presentations, she starts out by talking about the satellites that Ball has made and all the different aspects of what satellites do. Then, she talks about how hard it is to make them because they have to be perfect! One thing engineers have to think about is atmospheric pressure. That’s when she does the atmospheric pressure demonstration. For that demonstration, she has a vacuum chamber and first, puts in a balloon and watches it expand as the pressure drops. She asks questions like, “What do you think is going to happen?” and “Why does it happen?” Then, she puts in a marshmallow, some shaving cream and then a bowl of water. She thinks the best moment is when she asks a student to stick their finger in the water that was just boiling! Because, every time, they get nervous, and stick their finger in the water, expecting it to be hot and say, “It’s cold!” It’s always funny.

Christl Findling, a manufacturing engineer at Ball Aerospace, regularly presents at local schools the interesting effects of atmospheric pressure. Armed with a vacuum chamber she creates the atmosphere of space and shows how the lack of pressure effects objects from earth. Her presentation will include the vacuum chamber demonstration, a hands-on experiment with imploding pop cans, and materials to discuss the manufacturing of satellites and space exploration.

Weather permitting after the presentation, visitors will be invited to look through our large telescope at various celestial objects. Public star nights are held the third Friday of each month (except July, when we are closed for annual maintenance). No reservations are necessary for these nights. Just come and join us for the talk and some observing afterwards. If you have any questions, please call the observatory information line at 970-613-7793 or check the LTO web site at:

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