Dr. Don Walters returned to his boyhood school on Friday with a promise to blow things up.
Walters, who is a retired physics instructor at the Naval Postgraduate School in Monterey, California, graduated from Great Bend High School and attended Park Elementary School.
Park Principal Phil Heeke said Walters spent the afternoon talking to students and also judged their entries in the school’s recent science fair.
Students watched as Walters created an electric spark that jumped between two parallel wires and moved up between the wires.
“Is that fire?” a student asked?
“No, it’s plasma,” Walters said. “It’s called a Jacob’s Ladder. You see it in lots of movies.” He asked the students why they thought the plasma arc rose to the top of the wires. One of them correctly answered that it’s because hot air rises, and in this case the spark rose with it.
Walters also brought out some dry ice and had students listen as he pressed coin against it. In addition to conducting several scientific demonstrations to inspire the children, he encouraged all of them to take a physics class in the future. He even spent some time playing his guitar.
Bill Koelling, who assisted Walters with some of the preparation – such as delivering a tank of liquid nitrogen to the school library – said the physicist encouraged the students to learn an instrument or do something musical, even if it’s just lip syncing.
Members of the Great Bend Fire Department arrived at 2:30 p.m. so they could watch and be on standby for the promised explosive demonstrations that would be held outside.
Earlier in the day, Walters visited the Barton County Historical Society Village and Museum. His family has some ham radio equipment that was used by a young Jack Kilby and is now on loan to the museum. Beverly Komarek, executive director of the museum, said Walters is being added to the Who’s Who wall exhibit, which also includes the inventor of the microchip, Jack Kilby, who also spent his boyhood in Great Bend.