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Governor’s School for Computational Physics uses old school tech – telegrams – to reach out to homebound students

(Posted July 21, 2020)

Earlier this summer, students at Austin Peay’s Governor’s School for Computational Physics got a special surprise delivered to their front doors: a telegram from the school.  “I wanted the students to have a memento of the weirdest Governor’s School ever,” said Bryan Gaither, Austin Peay State University’s professional mad scientist.  This year’s Governor’s School – normally a three-week residential college experience where high-achieving high school students can earn college credit and get a preview of prospective career paths – was forced online because of the coronavirus pandemic.  Gaither normally orchestrates several science demonstrations during the school. He had to take all those demonstrations online.  “In an effort to make this year’s virtual Governor’s School as exciting and fun as possible, I went through many, many ideas to entertain our students,” he said. “These are 36 of the most gifted students in the state of Tennessee and they chose to sit through three weeks of virtual physics and math lectures, laboratory exercises, and a few uniquely awesome science demonstrations.”  You can read about the Zoom demos here.  But Gaither also wanted to give the students something more tangible.  Gaither came across the ideas for the telegrams at the beginning of the pandemic lockdown.  “I spent a long night on the internet looking for fun things to cheer up colleagues that were under a huge amount of stress due to the speed at which we were required to transition online last semester,” he said. “I eventually stumbled onto the website for International Telegram Company, who took over the original Western Union Telex network in 2006.  “Yes, telegrams still exist, and they are certified legal documents.”  Gaither sent telegrams to friends “to bring a little joy during some rough times.” He enjoyed their response so much that he started tinkering with the idea of sending telegrams to the Governor’s School students across the state.  “I worked with International Telegram for about two weeks to get the price point just right to send 36 certified and comical telegrams safely to their homes,” Gaither said. “I know a few of the students got a good laugh out of it.”  Here’s what the telegrams said:  “Did you know telegrams were still a thing? –  “They are. –  “Please accept this telegram as a memento of the weirdest Governor’s School ever. –  “So sad you are not able to join us on campus at Austin Peay. –  “So happy to have you with us virtually. –  “We will do much to make this summer memorable. –  “[INSERT EXPLOSION] –  “Your dedicated regional Professional Mad Scientist. –  “Bryan W. Gaither –  “[TELEGRAM END]”  To learn more about the Governor’s School for Computational Physics, go to https://apsu.edu/governors-school/.
One of the telegrams sent to students.

Earlier this summer, students at Austin Peay’s Governor’s School for Computational Physics got a special surprise delivered to their front doors: a telegram from the school.

“I wanted the students to have a memento of the weirdest Governor’s School ever,” said Bryan Gaither, Austin Peay State University’s professional mad scientist. 

This year’s Governor’s School – normally a three-week residential college experience where high-achieving high school students can earn college credit and get a preview of prospective career paths – was forced online because of the coronavirus pandemic. 

Gaither normally orchestrates several science demonstrations during the school. He had to take all those demonstrations online. 

“In an effort to make this year’s virtual Governor’s School as exciting and fun as possible, I went through many, many ideas to entertain our students,” he said. “These are 36 of the most gifted students in the state of Tennessee and they chose to sit through three weeks of virtual physics and math lectures, laboratory exercises, and a few uniquely awesome science demonstrations.” 

You can read about the Zoom demos here

But Gaither also wanted to give the students something more tangible.

Gaither came across the ideas for the telegrams at the beginning of the pandemic lockdown. 

“I spent a long night on the internet looking for fun things to cheer up colleagues that were under a huge amount of stress due to the speed at which we were required to transition online last semester,” he said. “I eventually stumbled onto the website for International Telegram Company, who took over the original Western Union Telex network in 2006. 

“Yes, telegrams still exist, and they are certified legal documents.”

Gaither sent telegrams to friends “to bring a little joy during some rough times.” He enjoyed their response so much that he started tinkering with the idea of sending telegrams to the Governor’s School students across the state.

“I worked with International Telegram for about two weeks to get the price point just right to send 36 certified and comical telegrams safely to their homes,” Gaither said. “I know a few of the students got a good laugh out of it.” 

Here’s what the telegrams said:

“Did you know telegrams were still a thing? – 

“They are. –

“Please accept this telegram as a memento of the weirdest Governor’s School ever. – 

“So sad you are not able to join us on campus at Austin Peay. –

“So happy to have you with us virtually. –

“We will do much to make this summer memorable. –

“[INSERT EXPLOSION] –

“Your dedicated regional Professional Mad Scientist. –

“Bryan W. Gaither – 

“[TELEGRAM END]” 

To learn more about the Governor’s School for Computational Physics, go to https://apsu.edu/governors-school/.

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