Celebrating science

16 July 2018

Throughout this summer term, our Ogden Outreach Officers and Regional Reps have been busy celebrating the achievements of young physicists from schools in their area. Twenty-three School Physicist of the Year (SPotY) events have been planned or have already taken place at universities across the UK. The events celebrate the efforts and achievements of outstanding young physicists, including many Year 6 primary students who receive Primary Scientist of the Year Awards. 

The SPotY events welcome the most promising physics students, the dedicated teachers and the proud parents to share the excitement of science. As well as recognising the young physicists and awarding their certificates of achievement, the events give a real flavour of what it means to study physics, with hands-on activities and lectures. 

“We have been celebrating the senior (Year 10 and Year 12) SPotY events sine 2010. It is always fantastic to bring these young, enthusiastic physicists together, recognising their achievements and giving them an idea of what physics at undergraduate level might entail,” says Head of School Partnerships, Wendy Cox. “As our primary programme developed we wanted to encourage and celebrate scientific endeavour from a younger age. The primary SPotY events have been a great way to showcase achievements and hopefully to encourage a long-term love of the subject.”

SPotY at the University of Birmingham
SPotY at the University of Birmingham

The University of Birmingham is one of four venues to host a SPotY event for Year 6 students. At the event, nominated students from Ogden schools in Birmingham, Solihull & surrounding areas, together with their families and teachers, were invited on to campus to celebrate their achievements in physics.

Each school nominated one of their Year 6 or Year 10 students. Forty-seven students were put forward, variously for their work ethic, outstanding academic achievements, enthusiasm, participation & involvement helping others, positive attitude, acting as an exceptional role model, intuitive thinking, mature attitude and generally being an excellent ambassador for the subject.

Guests were able to talk with university staff in the School of Physics & Astronomy; demonstrations had been set up, and researchers and current undergraduates were on hand to share their enthusiasm with the younger students.

The winners were presented with certificates and book tokens, by Wendy Cox and Professor Martin Freer, Head of the School of Physics & Astronomy at Birmingham. Dr Jenny Watson, Regional Representative of The Ogden Trust, closed the evening with a talk on the physics of the very hot and the very cold, using amazing liquid nitrogen demonstrations.

“We just wanted to pass on our thanks to all those involved for a wonderful time.  Our son really enjoyed it and it has certainly given him even more enthusiasm for all things science!” 

“Thank you for a wonderful and interesting evening.”

Keele also hosted a SPotY event for students in Years 6 and 10; this year, a record 25 young people from North Staffordshire and South Cheshire rewarded for their outstanding efforts and achievements in physics. 

The award winners and their families enjoyed a thrilling evening of science activities, which included designing and launching compressed air rockets, an astronaut puzzle, a tour of the space observatory, a pedal-a-watt challenge, a solar PV demo and a presentation from two Y12 Newcastle-under-Lyme College students who recently participated in an astrophysics research experience week at Keele. SPARK (the Keele Physics & Astrophysics society) were also on hand to show off their impressive lunar buggy built as part of a competition they entered this year!

NASA astronaut suits on display at the Keele SPotY
NASA astronaut suits on display at the Keele SPotY

The event concluded with the presentation of the SPotY awards. Ogden Trust Consultant, Barbara Grundy, had the privilege, with Ogden Outreach Officer, Scott Walker, charged with showcasing each award winner by sharing with the audience their unique and exceptional reasons for nomination. 

“Unquestionably for me, the SPOTY awards are the pinnacle of the science outreach calendar,” says Scott. "I relish the opportunity to keep in touch with all the award winners as they progress in their physics futures.” 

Heather Campbell, Outreach Officer at Surrey University, organised their SPotY event which celebrated the achievements of Year 10 and 12 students from 14 schools in Surrey.

“The students, their teachers and their family enjoyed a range of physics activities, including listening to their blood flowing and trying to find radioactive tracers in our replica human lungs on our medical physics stall, guessing the gas using diffraction glasses, hair raising experiment on the van de graaf generator. Students and staff spoke to our guests about the research that is going on at Surrey.

Our visitors were then taken into the world of wormholes by Professor Jim Al-Khalili as he discussed how the quantum world maybe connected to wormholes. The audience were transported through space and time with the exciting lecture, really capturing the interest and imagination of these young physicists and their parents and teachers. The evening ended with the prize giving ceremony where each student relieved their certificate and book prizes.”
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