Society of Physics Students Awarded Outreach Grant


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Our BYU chapter of the Society of Physics Students (SPS) was recently selected for a 2022-23 Marsh W. White Award as one of only ten chapters nationwide. This award dates back to 1975 and is named in honor of Dr. Marsh W. White for his long years of service to Sigma Pi Sigma, the Physics and Astronomy Honor Society. The award came with a $500 outreach grant given to support SPS projects, “designed to promote interest in physics among students and the general public.” This award has provided our BYU SPS chapter with external funding for better outreach programs. 

To qualify, our SPS officers submitted a proposal and budget detailing an activity that would exemplify the ideals of the program. The project proposed an outreach demonstration show where younger, marginalized students from the Boys & Girls Club of Utah County could interact with BYU undergraduate students and learn about applicable physics principles.

As project leader, Matthew Ricks headed up the proposal with approval from the chapter advisor, Dr. Benjamin Frandsen. Of their motivation, Matthew Ricks said, “SPS has a pretty small budget from the department, so $500 doesn’t sound like a whole lot but it’s significant compared to our budget and freed up money for other activities we want to do with physics majors or other outreach activities.” Dr. Frandsen added, “The purpose was to do something meaningful and worthwhile using funds provided by the SPS national organization to benefit the community around here and give students in our department an opportunity to teach and learn in that way.” 

The SPS award money went towards the materials needed for the volunteering undergraduate students, and take-home physics exploration kits for the elementary students. In preparation, SPS members met weekly to become familiar with the demonstrations. While the primary aim of this project was to increase interest in physics among elementary school students, it also provided undergraduate students with valuable teaching opportunities. The preparation culminated in an engaging presentation that introduced interesting applications of physics in the minds of younger students. 

 Continuing these efforts, SPS members hope to spark more interest in physics by working with local community organizations, such as the Provo Youth Mentoring Program at BYU. Matthew Ricks stated, “The elementary students that they bring in are from particularly disadvantaged backgrounds and traditionally underrepresented groups in STEM. The goal of the program is to get them interested in physics and STEM.” Through this effort, the SPS aims to foster diversity and generate excitement for the next generation of STEM students. The Physics and Astronomy Program at BYU was happy to see the success of this project and is currently planning future outreach programs. BYU welcomes your support. Go Cougs!

Student authors: Virginia Billings, Madi Harmer, Landon Schnebly, Jacob Feltman, Daniel Yankura, Matthew Ricks

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