SPS Zone 16 Meeting

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SPS Zone Meeting

October 5, 2019

Prescott, AZ 86301

Meeting host:

Society of Physics Students


Noura Ibrahim

SPS Chapter:

It was 17 days after we got the call requesting that the Embry-Riddle SPS chapter hosts the annual Zone 16 meeting. Morale was high and the stress was even higher which meant that this was the day of the Zone Meeting. The Embry-Riddle chapter in Arizona hadn’t hosted a meeting in over 10 years so this was a new experience to say the least.

The meeting was scheduled to start at 6 pm, so we had plenty of time in the morning and afternoon to run around town to gather all the materials needed for the meeting. Two of our officers, the president and outreach coordinator, were the main organizers within the club so they were the ones that spent the majority of the day running around and making sure that everything was ready for our guests. The volunteers gathered at 4:30 pm to help set up for the mixer and to learn how to make mocktails to serve the anxiously awaited guests. We were organized and everyone was so willing to help that by 5:30 pm everything was set up and ready to go.

We hadn’t heard from any schools on that day, and in fact we were only in contact with the Zone Counselor throughout this whole process, so we were not really sure when the first group was going to arrive. As we waited anxiously and stared at the empty parking lots, worry began to settle in. Where is everybody? Did they all get the schedule okay? Do they know where to go? Then, at 5 minutes before the hour, the back doors of the building swing open and we see a group of students that we do not recognize walk in. Their energy was high even though they had been travelling all day, which infected the place and shifted the mood from worry to excitement. The Meeting has officially begun!

As we stood around and greeted people and had some food, two more groups showed up and joined the fun. There is something about physics students that makes us click together rather quickly wherever we are and no matter which institution we come from. It must be our sense of solidarity and our sense of humor that we develop as we go through classes like quantum mechanics and electricity and magnetism and try to survive them. We all talked, had some snacks, and shared experiences and research interests until it was time for the tour. The STEM Education Center is the newest building on the Embry-Riddle campus and it is definitely the prettiest which is the main reason why we held all of the events in there and why we wanted to show it off to our guests. The tour was led by John Norton, who is a Space Physics Senior and a STEM Outreach student assistant. The coolest lab that we like to show off is the 3D printing lab which was a crowd favorite for this group.

The tour ended on the second floor, in front of the planetarium doors. The doors opened a few minutes before 7 pm to give students a chance to get settled. We also had the biggest group from an institution come in while we were getting ready to start so we held the door open for them for a little longer. Once the UNM students got settled in, we took a few pictures and then it was time to start the show. Our president, Noura Ibrahim, is a student assistant at the planetarium so she was the presenter for the night. The outreach coordinator, Ashley Elliott, has the same job as well, so she was the usher for the show. Noura made sure to let us know that the show that we were about to watch, Space Next, is the best one that the planetarium has and she promised that it would make us cry. That really set a high standard for the audience and I can say that we were not disappointed. A couple of people in the audience indicated that they only came to the zone meeting for the planetarium show and that is totally valid and understandable.

We all made our way downstairs to one of the classrooms to have dinner and listen to 4 student talks that were selected by the SPS officer board. The dinner was one of the highlights of the night. We got to grab a nice warm meal as we sat around and waited for the presentations to start. The talks started around 8:20 pm, with the first presenter being John Norton who spoke about his research in electric propulsion. Next, Brad Ratto, an engineering Junior and a member of SPS, gave a talk about his research with LIGO. After that, Ashley Elliott, a space physics junior, and Jonah Greenwood, a space physics sophomore, gave a talk about their research in the hunt for sterile neutrinos. Lastly, Noura Ibrahim, an astronomy senior, switched it up and talked about outreach within the chapter and her internship with SPS over the summer.

By the end of the presentations, a good amount of our guests decided to call it a night and headed back to their hotels. A smaller group of us moved on to the last activities of the evening. First, we went upstairs to one of the physics labs to watch and do some demonstrations. We saw the 2 SOCK demonstrations which was the first time that many of us had seen or heard of those specific demos. We definitely made a mess in the lab with brownie craters. We also did an EM demo and a pressure change demo. It was really interesting getting to discuss demo strategies and ideas with some of the students that have larger programs than us.

Our last adventure of the night happened in the parking lot outside of the building with a bunch of telescopes and laser pointer. We got to show off our telescope collections as we looked at different celestial objects like the moon, and Jupiter and the four galilean moons. The only downside is that the weather was super cold outside, and our guests were not appropriately dressed for the temperature. At that point we were all cold and tired so we ended the night then which was close to 10 pm as scheduled. 

We said goodbye to the remaining party and sent them on their way to get a good night’s sleep before the start of the APS Four Corners Section Meeting that was starting bright and early the next morning. Clean up after that was minimal since we had so many volunteers that were proactive and ready to go home. Most of us had to wake up early the next day to help with the 4CS meeting so we went our separate ways soon after our guests had left.

This event was such a unique experience for our chapter and it was made a success by who participated and volunteered. It was an interesting and rewarding way to spend our fall break, and it was well worth the stress and effort that went into planning and executing it. As we walked from activity to activity, we heard a lot of praise from the guests for our facilities and activities, so we can confidently say that the 2019 Zone 16 meeting was a success executed in a record time frame!

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