Not the Average Food Truck

By Isabella Futchi

Jambar Contributor

A large black trailer was parked on the walking path outside Moser Hall on Oct.10 with bright white letters that read “Food Truck for the Physics Mind.”

Food Truck for the Physics Mind is a marketing device for professional meetings and an educational device created by TeachSpin Inc. The company sells and displays physics-related mechanisms to businesses and goes on university tours. 

Youngstown State University’s STEM college was the first stop of many on the food truck’s educational tour. 

David Van Baak is the staff physicist at TeachSpin and has more than 30 years of teaching experience in physics. 

“I built what I used to use and advertise what I used to consume,” he said.

Van Baak said the truck featured not only physics devices but also chemistry and mathematics ones as well because physics is the foundation for many other fields.

“Even if people do not go into physics for a lifetime, they should know that it is the fountain from which all these technologies and applications come from,” he said. 

Gregg Sturrus, professor and chair of the Department of Physics and Astronomy at YSU, said students were apprehensive when visiting the mobile physics lab.

“It says ‘Food Truck,’ and they’re thinking, ‘Is there food in there?’” Sturrus said.

He said fixing broken machines in the lab and learning how they worked helped him better understand physics, and he hoped YSU students would enjoy a similar experience by visiting the Food Truck. 

“We get the students into the lab, and if something breaks, they help us fix it and learn how everything works,” Sturrus said. 

He said the trailer caught the eye of a lot of STEM students with about 60 students and several faculty members exploring the trailer. 

“Some students really like [physics] intrinsically, but all of them depend on [physics] all the time for everything they depend on in life,” Van Baak said. 

Van Baak, the main scientist guiding the students through the Food Truck, explained to them what the machines were and how they related to physics. 

“[Van Baak] doesn’t talk at a higher level. He puts physics in terms you’d understand,” Sturrus said. 

Sturrus said his faculty is purchasing a TeachSpin device that can conduct five different experiments, so professors will always have the teaching tool available.

“They’re not terribly expensive and broadly applicable,” Sturrus said.