Earlier this term, seventy six students from twelve different academic institutions from Pennsylvania, Ohio, and Michigan made their way to Ann Arbor, as the University of Michigan C. Wilbur Peters Chapter of the Society of Physics Students hosted the Zone 7 meeting. Throughout the two day event, participants were able to socialize with undergraduate physics students from other universities and discuss current research projects as well as share ideas to help promote STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) education among elementary and high school students.
SPS chapters nationwide are active in promoting STEM education for elementary and high school students. To create a community of shared interest among all of the SPS members present at the meeting, several U-M SPS members shared various science demonstrations they use to spark interest in STEM fields among local Ann Arbor elementary and high school students. There was also time allotted for meeting participants to build and take these demonstrations for use in their own outreach programs. Recently, the U-M SPS chapter earned the Blake Lilly Prize, which recognizes SPS chapters and individuals who make a genuine effort to positively influence the attitudes of school children and the general public about physics.
Participants also enjoyed a planetarium show and a Demonstration Make & Take, which allowed them to work in teams to construct Van-de-Graaf generators. In addition, students were able to enjoy a tour of U-M Physics Professor Jennifer Ogilvie's lab. The event also offered presentations on research and physics careers by Michigan physics faculty members Professor Christine Aidala and Professor Joshua Spitz. Throughout the conference, students presented research which they are conducting at their various institutions. Participants left the event with a deeper appreciation for every aspect of the SPS program and thoroughly enjoyed themselves throughout.
In addition to hosting the Zone 7 meeting, on February 17, the U-M Society of Physics Students partnered with the Ann Arbor Hands-On Museum to host the Physics Palooza. This two day event included exciting physics demonstrations and spectacular stage shows, with a focused target audience of children ages 6 - 12. University of Michigan students in this chapter both built and presented these demos.
The Society of Physics Students (SPS) started in 1968. Its mission is simple: to help students transform themselves into contributing members of the professional community. This is accomplished by refining skills such as effective communication and personal interactions, leadership experience, establishing a personal network of contacts, presenting scholarly work in professional meetings and journals, research experiences, and outreach services to the campus and local communities. SPS is a professional association explicitly designed for students and their advisers, with the only requirement being an interest in physics.