Zone 10 Meets in Memphis

Share This:



In The Zone - Regional SPS Highlights

Zone 10 Meets in Memphis

Rhodes College Hosts Gathering of Physics Students from Southern Universities


Catherine Miller, Incoming SPS Chapter President

Rhodes College

Attendees at the Zone 10 meeting come together for a photograph. Images courtesy of Morgan Smathers.

Rhodes College was superexcited to host this year’s meeting for zone 10. We don’t think there has been a zone meeting like it in quite some time!

It started with our keynote speaker, retired NASA astronaut Winston Scott. After his talk, SPS members got to ask him questions, join him for dinner, and take photos with him. Then the conference attendees were in a room full of old, unidentified objects, and they did what physicists do: they tried to figure out “What the heck is it?!” During a chill session in our physics lounge, we roasted marshmallows over a Ruben’s tube, played cards, and became very invested in some impromptu Hangman games.

SPS members also came together to discuss zone business and participate in round tables on subjects ranging from fundraising to collaborative projects such as microgravity experiments. On Saturday, Professor David Smathers of Rhodes College gave an introduction to metallurgy, and we toured the National Metal Museum in Memphis.

We hope you enjoy these stories from the event, written by Rhodes SPS members. And we hope to see you at future meetings! //

Meeting Your Heroes

The first time I met Captain Winston Scott, a retired astronaut, I threw my cell phone at him. I didn’t mean to, it just kind of happened. I had just come into Rhodes’ science lobby after directing guests in the parking lot, and the first person I saw was a tall man in a bright blue flight suit laughing with a group of physics students. “Hey, I want to meet an astronaut,” I thought, and beelined toward him. Unfortunately, my phone also beelined, and when I stopped to shake his hand, Newton’s first law held fast: the phone kept going. Crack-a-lackin’, my phone hit the ground, the battery shooting off in one direction as the phone’s body went in another.

Winston Scott looked down at me, and for a moment I wished the floor would just swallow me whole. He looked confused. “Good, great,” I thought desperately. “I meet an astronaut and I throw my phone at him. Rad.” Embarrassed, I couldn’t think of anything else to do besides extend my hand to shake like nothing had happened.

With a grin, Captain Scott grabbed it and started laughing. “It’s all right, you know, I’m just an astronaut!” Then, incredibly, he stopped shaking my hand and picked up my phone. I was blown away. An astronaut? Touched my phone? I’m never washing it again. I couldn’t help it and started laughing as he handed me the pieces. He laughed too, then admitted, “I don’t know how to fix a smartphone.” 

- by Catherine Miller, incoming SPS Chapter President, Class of 2016

What Being a Scientist is All About

The physics department at Rhodes College is a small one, a close group of like-minded individuals. This helps to foster an environment of friendship, fellowship, and engagement with our immediate science community. But there’s a trade-off to this situation. It limits our exposure to new ideas.

Meeting other members of the zone 10 community was a great opportunity to exchange new ideas and methods of learning. As physicists, we all share the same basic goal of expanding our knowledge base and constantly growing and learning. What really surprised me, however, was how we are all such different people. Talking to a University of Memphis student, for instance, I was fascinated to discuss what got him so interested in quantum physics.

- by an Enthusiastic SPSer, Class of 2016

Table Top Physicists

At the zone 10 meeting, I found myself wandering over to a table labeled “camaraderie,” where a small group had already gathered. The group included a chapter that had already spoken briefly about a mentoring program designed to help increase their involvement and keep younger students interested in physics, which our chapter is very concerned about. The idea interested me, and the discussion it sparked at the table was fantastic.

Students from the University of Memphis, the University of Central Arkansas, Centenary College, and Ole Miss joined the conversation. All of us had an interest in what other chapters were doing successfully and were willing to divulge our own secret formulas for success. We discussed creating a zone 10 database for physics demos, and our chapter made new connections with the SPSers from Ole Miss. Hopefully we will get the chance to team up with them for future SPS events.

I hope that everyone else left the conference as excited about the things we can achieve over the next year as I did, and I hope we will all come back next year with new accomplishments to show off!

- by Jordan Meyer, Class of 2016

We Need to Build a Segway

The purpose of the zone 10 gathering was not immediately clear to me. In essence, we met and we mingled.

After Rhodes showed off its 5' fire tornado, we were asked for designs for the chamber by another chapter that hopes to build one. Henderson State brought along its homemade Segway, which started a discussion about whether the Segway is a viable form of permanent transport for students (a subject still under much debate).

As we collectively basked in the glory of our guest astronaut, the remarkable bits of the SPS zone meeting turned out to be hidden inside the mingling. We were now part of a community, I found, one that could collaborate and improve itself solely through interaction.

As my classmate and chapter member Catherine Miller told me, SPS is “a gateway community,” meaning that the valuable lessons we learn from being in SPS can be applied elsewhere. Here are some things I learned from the meeting. One: I should interact with other scientifically minded people. Two: how that chapter made its Segway. Three: Segways are cool, and I want one.

We strive for cooperation out of the recognition that it is easier for us to move the world if we exist within and contribute to a community. In other words, SPS members are better together than apart.

- by Edo Draetta, Incoming SPS Chapter Outreach Officer, Class of 2016

More from this department

In The Zone - Regional SPS Highlights