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Celebrating science

Published: 27 July 2020

“This has helped my daughter so much as she is always doubting herself and her level of school work. Thank you.”
Parent of an award winner from the Newcastle SPOTY, jointly organised by Northumbria and Newcastle universities. There were 28 SPOTY winners from the region.

Traditionally, the summer term is full of Ogden School Physicist of the Year (SPOTY) events as our outreach officers work with their local schools to mark the achievements of young physicists in their area.

This year, face-to-face events have not been possible but several of our outreach officers have still taken the opportunity to celebrate science and the achievements of young physicists, including the universities of Sheffield and Keele.

The online event at Sheffield included a hands-on activity to grow crystals using Epsom salts. Parents had been emailed the ingredients list in advance so the students could join in with the online experiment. The session concluded with some deeper discussion around the physics of crystals and its applications lead by a materials physicist from the university. Six Year 10 students and five Year 6 students were nominated and received their SPOTY awards in the post after the event.

“I felt it was important to hold the event as it was Sheffield’s first year running SPOTY,” explains Ogden Outreach Officer, Laura Meade. “I really enjoyed organising the event and it was so lovely to see that people took the time to participate even in the challenging circumstances of working virtually. I hope this small online SPOTY has set the groundwork to build on this event for Sheffield next year.”

“I found this fascinating. It made me think further about a career I would be interested in and gave me a much clearer idea. I was very motivated after the session and enthused. Gave me a much clearer idea on my future career.”
Year 10 participant

“It was really well run, thank you. [my child] enjoyed hearing from real life physicists, plus the kudos and the compliments.”

Keele has a more established SPOTY programme which is reflected in the online event hosted by Ogden Outreach Officer, Scott Walker. This virtual event made 36 SPOTY awards (31 Year 6s and five Year 10s), featured a quick-fire quiz and an introduction to the university, which included an overview of the 2019 Nobel Prize winners and how this research links to Keele. Scott also gave the online audience an insight into recent physics developments and exciting things to come.

A slide on the Keele SPOTY 2020 physics quiz featuring famous physicists.

Dr Jacco van Loon, a reader in physics at Keele, showcased Comet NEOWISE, gave a short talk about how he got into physics and then held a Q&A with the award winners.

“The event was incredibly well received,” explains Scott. “There were over 60 participants at its peak, which is likely to have constituted all (or almost all) of the SPOTY award winners along with a number of nominating teachers and invited guests.

“I was very apprehensive about taking the event online and was close to cancelling entirely,” admits Scott. “But I felt it was really important, especially during the current (difficult) times where these young people have been out of school for four months, that their efforts and achievements were celebrated.

“This has, without question, helped build their science capital, feeling of self-worth and identity as scientists/physicists,” concludes Scott.

“We’d just like to thank you for organising such a fantastic awards ceremony this evening. It was very inspiring…”

“Can I just say a huge thank you for organising such a lovely event this evening. I can tell [our student] got so much out of it and he has been truly inspired.”

The closing slide from Keele SPOTY: Congratulations to all this year's SPOTY winners. Have a safe summer and continue your love and passion for physics - you can change the world.

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