Scientific Roll Model
Just ask 13-year-old Ben LaPierre. On a recent visit to LaPierre's Fort Collins junior high school, Jones instructed the teen to place his left hand on an electrified glass jar that simulates lightning and then pick up a lightbulb with his right. When he did, the energy passed through him and the bulb began to glow. So did Ben's face. "Awesome," he said.
The son of a Columbus, Ohio, minister and a teacher mom, Jones has loved physics since childhood. "I saw it could explain all sorts of things," he says. "I had the idea, 'Ah, that's why that happens.' " Since founding the Little Shop program in 1992, Jones, whose wife, Carol Davis, 43, is an artist, has visited some 15,000 kids a year and shared tricks with teachers around the country. He also hosts a cable-access show that teaches kids experiments to do at home, including the microwave-ready Marshmallow Masher, "a sort of volcano that gets goo everywhere," he says. "Parents get excited that kids come home and try something, though some say, 'You could have suggested a cleaner experiment.' "