July 15, 2018

The first physics festival in Latvia takes place

This year, our Young Minds section participated in the first ever physics festival in Latvia - an event solely for the popularization of physics and science for the public. Almost all groups that do physics outreach were gathered in the same venue - which means our team was also their. Multiple experiment workshops were set up, and a competition for middle-schoolers also took place. The event was a success, as the amount of visitors from the general public attending went up to a few thousand.

Children enjoying experiments during the Physics festival
The event was well covered - it garnered enough attention for some TV and radio coverage. Feedback from the public was very positive, and that means this will be no one hit wonder - another festival for physics is in the works for next year, and our section will certainly attend next year as well.

Strong finish to season 8 for SYP

One more year for SYP has finished, and the upward trajectory for student interest has steadily held up. In the beginning of the year, we reported record numbers of attendance, and that continued throughout the entire season.

Students listening to instructions in a session

In addition to crowd-pleasing topics we looked at in the first semester, the second semester featured sessions on constructional physics, electronics, solid state physics, food physics and, finally, chaos theory. Highlights from these sessions include building model houses and testing them against shaking to imitate an earthquake and even advanced lectures in chaos theory and solid state physics that touched on master's level physics, and yet students enjoyed them immensely.

The 3rd School Cup competition also came to a close, and it was essentially a photo-finish. Teams battled for points until the final session, and the winning team beat out their rivals only by one point - to give perspective, the total point count for the winning team was about 300 points. Teams from various schools showed their mettle all year, performing well on tests as well as showing ability in the four creative extra tasks that were given to them. The best teams were also awarded prizes for their hard work.

Our organizer team with the best teams of the School Cup
 Additionally to the main sessions, regional sessions in cities were also still held - more than ever. Cities of Valmiera, Ventspils, Rezekne and Liepaja saw numerous sessions take place - and Rezekne even had 7 sessions, which is only two less than in our capital!

All in all, the 8th season of SYP was a resounding success, and we will look to keep building on this success to increase our output and outreach even more, allowing more students to see that physics education can be fun indeed!

January 14, 2018

SYP continues to expand across the country

This semester, our team has not only facilitated the ever-growing sessions in Latvia’s capital, Riga, but also slightly expanded our reach across the country. Previously, we only held sessions in Valmiera, Kuldiga and Ventspils, but now a new city has joined the fold – we will also hold sessions in the regional center Rezekne. 

The schools that we’ve visited thus far have all shown willingness to continue to work together, and have asked if classes for younger students than Grade 10 are available. As a consequence, our team also occassionally hosts tailor-made sessions for the younger students, involving them as well.

Kids across the country enjoy our style of teaching physics

We’ve also done numerous projects that are directly not connected with our sessions – our team has constructed a physics prop (a large scale wave pendulum) for a TV show and taken part in creating exhibitions for museums (specifically, an interactive stand about the working principles of a light bulb, a phone and communications systems). Slowly but surely, SYP is garnering a reputation for being able to present physics in an interesting, educational and simple manner not only to high school students, but to people of all ages and walks of life.

The future outlook looks good as well, with annual projects looking to be repeated and a few new ventures lined up on our calendars.

Another record semester for the School for Young Physicists

This semester, SYP kicked off its 8th season in style. In September, the main topic was military physics, and the session was very special. For starters, the topic garnered great interest from students, and a capacity number of 320 (!) students attended, which was a monumental increase over the previous record of 250 people. Managing such a large crowd is a great challenge, but our organizing team did a splendid job in making sure everyone was attended to.

However, this was not the only extraordinary thing to happen – after the popular lectures, the experimental part had students doing all kinds of military related things, for example – decoding messages and working with electronic sonar detectors, but the main attraction was shooting with paintball guns and analyzing the trajectory of the paintballs experimentally and theoretically.

Representatives from the Canadian army arriving at the season opener session

Even this was not the most surprising thing to happen – for the last in-depth lecture we had a representative from the Latvian Army and two Canadian army officers – one a PhD in physics – who gave lectures about their everyday work and the role of physics in it. This event caught enough attention that the Army sent over a reporter crew to film the entire process, which was a first for SYP.

Signals Officer from Quebec giving his lecture to the audience

After the first session, attendance rates remained very high, stabilizing at 250 attendees for every session until December. In later sessions, we looked at  radioactivity and nuclear physics, at chemical physics and at thermal physics. In all cases, students learned something outside of the school curriculum. Highlights include a popular lecture introducing students to the topic of quantum physics in chemistry and an experiment with colored ice cubes visually demonstrating the effects of convention in a glass of water.

We’ve also commenced the third year of our School Cup competition, allowing teams of students to represent their schools during the season and compete for prizes at the end of the year. Each year, we try to add new quirks to the competition, and this year the homework tasks have been revamped to be more fun for the teams involved. At the end of the semester, we also conducted a team quiz for teams to get a chance to score extra points.

Altogether, the first semester of SYP’s 8th season has been a record-setting one, and we look forward to keeping the upward trend going in 2018.

Students observing convection visualized via colored ice cubes

July 15, 2017

Playground Festival 2017

As in previous years, our School for Young Physicists took part in the extreme sport festival “Playground”, once again upping our workshop in size, scope and popularity. As in previous years, staples such as the potato cannon (two, this time) and the tennis ball catapult were set up again, and popular experiments such as the hold-fire-in-your-hand and mushing around in a non-Newtonian fluid were demonstrated.