SPS Zone 7 Meeting

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SPS Zone Meeting

October 11, 2019 to October 12, 2019

Flint, Michigan

Meeting host:

Society of Physics Students


Ronald E. Kumon, Ph.D.

SPS Chapter:

Q: What do you get when you combine physics students, a poster session, a trip to the dark side of the moon, and punkin chunkin? 

A: The Fall 2019 SPS Zone 7 Meeting, of course!

SPS Zone 7’s first zone meeting of the 2019‒20 year was organized by Kettering University SPS chapters 3540 & 3541 on Friday, October 11, and Saturday, October 12, 2019 in Flint, Michigan. The meeting was organized jointly with the 2019 Fall Meeting of the Ohio-Region Section of the American Physical Society (OSAPS) and the Michigan Section of the American Association of Physics Teachers (MIAAPT). Over 20 students from 7 chapters in Michigan and Ohio attended the meeting.

The zone meeting started on Friday afternoon with a kick-off event. Associate Zone Councilor Abigail Ambrose from The College of Wooster and Zone Councilor Prof. Ronald Kumon from Kettering University led the session, which was also live-streamed for students who were not able to attend the meeting in person. After asking everyone to introduce themselves and their chapters, they provided brief presentations including “SPS Programs 101” and “PhysCon 2019” to students from Eastern Michigan University, Hiram College, John Carroll University, Kettering University, and The College of Wooster. At the end of the meeting, they announced that the John Carroll University SPS chapter has volunteered to host the 2020 Spring Zone 7 meeting in conjunction with the 2020 Spring OSAPS meeting which will be held on their campus on April 3‒4, 2020.

After the kick-off, students proceeded to the poster session.  The session featured 49 posters over a wide range of topics, with many co-authors that were undergraduate students and/or SPS members. The poster session was well-attended by students and faculty alike. The best student poster was given an award at the end of the OSAPS meeting.

The zone meeting then moved Flint Institute of Arts in the Flint Cultural Center for a well-attended catered dinner and plenary talk. Craig Williams, Senior Aerospace Engineer from NASA Glenn Research Center in Ohio, gave an interesting presentation about the physics and engineering of space travel to Mars, with a particular emphasis on various kinds of propulsion systems. He also provided some context of the economic and political factors that have affected the Mars mission over the years since the beginning of the U.S. space program.

At the conclusion of the plenary talk, students made a short walk over to the next-door Longway Planetarium (http://sloanlongway.org/longway-planetarium/) to see “Dark Side: The Light Show.” With a 52.5 foot dome and state-of-art projection system, Longway Planetarium is the largest planetarium in Michigan. This particular show was not about astronomy, but rather provided an intense and immersive journey through the full album of Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of the Moon, including 5.1 surround sound and 4K video animation synced with the music. It was very trippy indeed!

Saturday morning was dedicated to contributed talks for the OSAPS and MIAAPT meetings. Topics included computational and experimental condensed matter; optics, photonics, spectroscopy, and imaging; biophysics, chemical physics, and medical physics; astrophysics and theoretical physics; and physics education. At the conclusion of these sessions and lunch, the zone meeting moved to Factory Two, which is Flint’s Community Makerspace (https://factorytwo.org/).  (Factory Two is located on the former site of the second auto factory of the company that would later go on to become part of General Motors; it is just down the street from the historic Durant-Dort Factory One building.)  Students saw their many facilities including: a meeting space, a space dedicated to virtual reality systems, and projects areas for electronics, leatherwork, screen printing of textiles, laser cutting, bicycle repair, metalwork, woodwork, and blacksmithing.

Finally, what does a young physics major’s heart turn to once the weather grows brisk and the leaves begin to change color? Punkin chunkin, of course! Students liberated a couple dozen pumpkins into the clear blue Flint sky using a slingshot and brute force to close out the meeting. Kettering SPS President Darby Thomason commented that “Being able to interact with physics students from all over was an amazing experience. My favorite part of the meeting was the Pumpkin Chunkin’.  Pigs might not floy, but pumpkins sure do!”

In summary, the 2019 Fall SPS Zone 7 Meeting at Kettering University provided a venue for students to find out about ongoing SPS activities, present their research, and meet other physics undergraduates in the zone. It also highlighted some recent developments in physics, and featured fun activities. Our first zone meeting of the year was successful, and we look forward to our next meeting in the spring.

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