Zone 11 Meeting

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SPS Zone Meeting

March 20, 2015 to March 21, 2015

St. Paul, Minnesota

Meeting host:

Society of Physics Students


Christopher Phenicie, President; Kyle Greene, Vice President; Rebecca McLaughlin, Outreach Coordinator; Luke DeMars, Project Manager; Kali Ask, Activities Director; Raj Beekie, Communications Officer

SPS Chapter:

Exploring and practicing outreach demonstrations.

This year’s SPS Zone 11 meeting was held at the Tate Laboratory of Physics and the new Physics and Nanotechnology building at the University of Minnesota Twin Cities on March 20th 21st, 2015. The attendees included members from the University of Minnesota Twin Cities (UMN), North Dakota State University Fargo (NDSU), and the South Dakota School of Mines and Technology (SDSOM). With the three universities we had 25 attendants, 24 of them students and 1 professor.

Our meeting started on Friday, March 20th, at 5:00 p.m. with a meet and greet amongst the three SPS chapters. We met in the William I. Fine Institute of Theoretical Physics, with pizza and board games as an icebreaker to help introduce people to one another. Afterwards we held a movie night featuring the film Particle Fever, the tale of the discovery of the Higgs Boson. A Q&A session followed the film with theoretical particle physicist Dr. Tony Gherghetta. Finally we ended our night with an astronomy viewing hour using the university's 100 year old refractor telescope and a newer reflector telescope to view Jupiter and three of its moons.

The second day of our meeting started at 10:00 AM with donuts, coffee, and an hour long brainstorming session. Topics that were discussed included how educational outreach was approached, attracting new members and membership processes (dues collected, benefits conferred, etc), motivating members to participate in SPS events, social and academic event ideas, and several other topics. This was a very useful and enjoyable part of the Zone meeting because each of the different chapters learned of many ways to improve from others, and everyone came away with new ideas to try out for their chapter. For instance, other chapters appreciated how UMN awards points to members for participation and volunteering with end of semester awards going to those who earned the most points. The UMN chapter was quite interested to hear about the NDSU practice of holding academic events involving math professors to go over mathematical concepts in physics and the SDSOM idea of trying to create one big project specifically geared toward freshmen. There was also a lot of interest in the SDSOM fundraising events during the holidays with bake sales and a “guess the amount of jellybeans in a jar” voting competition, with each vote costing some small amount of cash that goes toward the fundraising efforts.

Following our brainstorming session we capitalized on the momentum created and switched our thoughts to a more academic setting. We had four volunteers from Grad Phi, the U of M physics graduate students group, to talk about their research and what it is like to be a graduate student in physics. Research topics that were covered during this session included magnetics, experimental cosmology, and Very High Energy Gamma Ray astrophysics. The graduate students joined us for lunch afterward. This provided us undergraduates an opportunity to ask more specific questions about their work, the graduate student lifestyle, and how to make yourself stand out as an applicant for graduate school.

After lunch we broke out the outreach demos. We took this time to show the visiting chapters our physics demos that we bring to local schools. This provided us the opportunity to discuss different strategies of explaining demos to different age groups. Of course, the most memorable part of this was just playing with the demos. After all, we are all physics students and these are our “toys”.

Our last academic event was a physics colloquium presented by Professor Paul Crowell on the topic of ferromagnetism and it’s use for memory in hard drives. He provided quite a detailed explanation of the physics and how technology has changed over the past thirty years, and even had samples to pass around for us to view. After thanking Professor Crowell we treated our participants to a farewell dinner at Stub and Herb’s, a local eatery. This dinner concluded the SPS Zone 11 meeting.

It was a bittersweet goodbye as the outoftowners left. However, before they left, the folk from SDSOM pulled the officers aside and proposed the following: They said that if we made our next spring trip to SDSOM, they’d show us around their neck of the woods and buy us dinner. In light of this offer, their departure did not feel like the end, but just the beginning of an interstate relationship, bonded by our mutual love of physics.

SPS Advisor Dr. Dan Hennessy and his wife Lisa checking in on the meet n greet.

Professor Crowell’s talk on magnetic memory.

Dr. Tony Gherghetta leading a discussion after a screening of Particle Fever

Discussion Session on what different SPS Chapters do and what works and doesn’t work.

Looking at Jupiter through a telescope located above Tate Labs and a Dobsonian telescope