New Event Breaks Chapter Boundaries at the 2019 Physics Congress

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New Event Breaks Chapter Boundaries at the 2019 Physics Congress


Brittney Hauke, 2019 Physics Congress Planning Committee

 Images from the 2019 Physics Congress. Photos courtesy of SPS National Council and office. When the 2019 Student Chapter Engagement Committee first started meeting during the summer of 2017, we were tasked to devise and debut a brand-new event that would focus on connecting chapters across the country. Our goal was to keep over 1000 students engaged by encouraging them to interact and share information in new ways. Two years later, this resulted in two giant banners, boxes of hangers, and dozens of boxes that contained literal pounds of marshmallows, hundreds of markers, and way too many folders for this first-ever Breaking Boundaries event.

The event was split into three different sections: the Chapter Showcase, a T-shirt design contest and exchange, and chapter banners. The T-shirt area included a display of chapter T-shirt designs where attendees could vote for their favorite and also exchange their extra shirts for ones from another chapter (hence the hangers). Two banners were set up on tables where students could mark what school they were from on a zone map, sign their name, and write a message, favorite physics equation, or draw a spherical animal. The largest and most demanding part was the Chapter Showcase—about 45 chapters from across the country had table space to share what made their chapter unique through demos, posters, videos, T-shirts, games, pins, and much more. All attendees had bingo-style sheets with actions encouraging them to visit the different tables to learn about new outreach activities, strategies for running their own SPS chapter, talk to schools with PhD programs, and get to know SPS National.

The room was buzzing with energy and conversation. One student I chatted with said he was so impacted in the first 30 seconds of walking into the exhibit hall that he wanted to run for president of his SPS chapter. My undergraduate research advisor, Steve Feller, stopped me about halfway through the event and said he was very impressed by how everyone was interacting with each other. But by far the most meaningful part of the experience for me was handing the mic over to the SPS chapter from The University of Puerto Rico – Mayagüez so they could share their cultural dance with us. Laughing and dancing with other physics students in a spontaneous conga line is a memory I don’t think I or other attendees will forget anytime soon.

Thank you to all of the chapters and volunteers who made this Breaking Boundaries event such a success! We hope that it will inspire future zone meeting hosts to consider including a similar event in their program.

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