Each beat on the large drums sitting on the turf of Reser Stadium shot a ring of smoke from the instruments, which were made out of converted trash cans, as an Oregon State University drum line performed in the background and multiple cameras filmed the spectacle.
And outside the camera shot, Aaron J. Fillo was jumping up and down in excitement.
It was understandable that Fillo, a doctoral candidate in engineering at OSU, was excited: The moment, which came around 2½ hours into the shoot, showcased for the first time the drums into which he’d poured almost a full week of design, building and testing.
The shoot took place May 17 during production of the fourth episode in a series of science education videos for kids that Fillo and a team of videographers have been producing with sponsorship from the Corvallis-Benton County Public Library. Called "Lib Lab" (an abbreviation of "library laboratory"), the video series is being rolled out on the library's YouTube channel at http://bit.ly/2qUfY1X.
Each video includes a lesson on a scientific principle, a demonstration of the effects involved and an example of how the viewer can try similar experiments at home.
The first episode, for instance, focuses on jet engines, using a water cooler bottle attached to a skateboard as a primitive rocket and offering tips for building an Alka-Seltzer rocket. The library is even offering kits to community members so they can do these experiments at home.
The drum line video explains the principles behind vortices (the plural of vortex) as demonstrated by smoke rings or water swirling down a drain.
So far, Fillo and his collaborators have published three episodes of "Lib Lab," with the third scheduled to go online this week.
Fillo is the recipient of a National Science Foundation graduate research fellowship, which requires him to do public outreach in exchange for three years of research funding. The videos are his way of doing that.
Fillo said he chose this challenging form of outreach because he wants to raise the level of general science knowledge in the country.
“I dream of a day where I can go up to a stranger at a bar and have a conversation about quantum physics,” he said.
He said he also wanted kids to have a better knowledge of basic science concepts so they can make informed decisions about science policy when they grow up.
His goal with the videos is to explain complex concepts in an accessible way and teach kids how they can go out in the world and see these things in everyday life.
“There’s a lot of literature that people hold onto things better when they experience it firsthand,” he said.
Fillo said the project got started in January, when the Friends of the Corvallis-Benton County Public Library agreed to fund the filming of the series' first few episodes.
Andrew Cherbas, a deputy director with the library, said the group gave a total of $6,000 to get the project started, which funded three episodes. The robotics program at OSU has funded a fourth episode that showcases a soft robot design developed there.
Cherbas said library staff had seen Fillo do educational demonstrations before partnering with him and were impressed with his ability to make science fun.
“The library wanted to support 'Lib Lab' because we thought it would be an outstanding way to explore new ways to deliver STEAM education to Benton County,” he said, using the abbreviation for science, technology, engineering, art and math.
The costs for the shows have included materials for Fillo’s demonstrations and hiring local video production companies Yancy Simon LLC and Video Dads to produce, write, shoot and edit the shows with Fillo.
Fillo said he’s open to partnering with other organizations to produce additional episodes of "Lib Lab."
“I would love this to be my full-time job,” he said.
Any organization interested in partnering with "Lib Lab" can contact Cherbas at Andrew.Cherbas@corvallisoregon.gov or 541-766-6792.
Fillo said he’s long had an interest in science education: He made a cannon that can fire pingpong balls at 450 miles per hour, which he has shown off at local maker fairs and other events. He said he’s also worked as an actor and magician, and he brings some of those skills into the show.
“It’s helpful to make teaching entertaining,” he said.
Fillo added that he has a lot of ideas for future episodes, and he’s begun to work with partners to make some of them happen, including dropping things from a low-flying airplane onto a private runway and swimming with live animals at the Oregon Coast Aquarium.
“I really want to go swimming in the shark tank," he said. "That’s always been a dream of mine.”