July 15, 2016

Physics workshop in festival "Playground"

From July 8-10 the members of the University of Latvia Young Minds Section participated in a sports, music and creativity festival named "Playground". The festival proved to be quite popular, garnering a turnout of a few thousand people. In the festival, our section operated a workshop in which attendants could take part in various physical demonstrations. The workshop attracted numerous people, young and old, most of whom had little day to day interaction with physics and science in general. Some were interested in the physical background of the experiments, while others were content with just witnessing the show.

Highlights of our demonstrations included:
  • potato cannons and a catapult which people could use to shoot at pre-made targets;
  • bottle rockets which could be launched in the air with pressure created by the release of CO2 from the reaction of baking soda with vinegar;
  • a mixture of corn starch and water, which changes its apparent viscosity depending on the way it is handled;
  • a demonstration with different color dyes that were placed inside glycerol, then slowly, carefully stirred until they seemed to have mixed. The dyes were then unmixed by stirring the liquid backwards;
  • an electronic 1 vs 1 reaction game set up on a breadboard and operated by Raspberry Pi;
  • the creation of dense mist by pouring water onto dry ice.

May 29, 2016

A look back at the 6th season of SYP

Along with the school year, the School for Young Physicists has finished its season as well. Nine different, fun and educational sessions took place in the University of Latvia Faculty of Physics and Mathematics on the following topics:

-forensic physics
-biological physics
-centripetal force
-statistical physics
-liquid physics
-elementary particle physics

Each session was attended by an average of 150 students from different schools of Latvia who arrived to listen to popular science lectures from physics students, conduct some fun experiments and learn from the very best in lectures given by professors and specialists of the field. 

A season-long competition was also held - the School Cup. To contend for it, students were tested on their knowledge after every session and also had to make videos of different topics as homework. Their work was graded after every session and a  scoreboard was kept and regularly updated. The competition was tough but in the end the first place was awarded to the Riga State 1st Gymnasium team "Nucleus and Electrons". The top teams and individual performers were awarded with gifts from our supporters.

Winners of the School Cup
The team of School for Young physicists also visited the best regional schools in Latvia for external sessions. We visited Valmiera State Gymnasium, Ventspils 1st State Gynmnasium and Kuldīga Gymnasium, thus offering the children to attend the sessions without having the need to travel the long distance to Riga. You can read more about it here.

All the materials and reviews can be found here: www.jfs.lv

Looking back at Developments in Optics and Communications 2016

A little earlier than usual - just before Easter -, from the 21st to 23rd of March, the 12th International student and young scientist conference “Developments in Optics and Communications 2016” (DOC 2016) was held in Riga. It gathered many brilliant young scientists from different countries to share their scientific work, insights and experiences in various fields related to optics: vision science, optical materials, biophotonics, laser physics and spectroscopy.

DOC 2016 participants - sections of Laser physics and Optical Materials
Each topic also featured an invited speaker that shared their experience with the young scientists. This year from Latvia – Dr. Mara Reinfelde talked about “Practical application of holography” for the Laser Physics and Spectroscopy section, University of Latvia OSA student chapter advisor Dr. Florian Gahbauer gave an amazing speech on the topic of “Magnetic sensing with nitrogen-vacancy (NV) centres in synthetic diamond”. The conference organizers from both SPIE and OSA student chapters had also invited speakers from Israel and Finland to talk about their research.

Dr. Mara Reinfelde giving her speech
Dr. Florian Gahbauer giving his speech
Dr. Igor Meglinski was invited to tell students about “Cloud Monte Carlo for the needs of biomedical optics” for the biophotonics section and Prof. Zeev Zalevsky from Israel gave a speech about “Super resolved and extended depth of focus concepts for remote and ophthalmic imaging systems” for vision science students. Students were so engaged in Prof. Zalevsky’s speech that it took almost an extra 20 minutes just to answer all the questions and give in-depth explanations of his work.
Dr. Igor Meglinski
Prof. Zeev Zalevsky
Traditionally the best poster and the best oral presentation are given an award for their work funded by University of Latvia OSA student chapter, and this year was no exception. The best speech award was given to Janis Smits for his talk “Deconvolution - a tool for enhanced resolution magnetic images” and the best poster was presented by Andris Antuzevics (“Structure of Gd3+ ions in oxyfluoride glass ceramics containing fluorite crystallites”).

Janis Smits - prizewinner of best speech award
Andris Antuzevics - owner of the best poster
This year was special also because of the conference venue. The conference was held in the newly built Academic Center for Natural Sciences of the University of Latvia (ULACNS) in Tornakalns. ULACNS opened its doors on September 7th, 2015. It was hoped that relocating to the new UL ACNS would create unprecedented opportunities for cooperation between scientific fields and study programs. And indeed it was an amazing experience to listen to talks and admire posters in the new building. The premises on the 7th floor provided an amazing view over Riga for every attendee to enjoy. The staff were also kind enough to allow conference guests to enjoy the view from the rooftop.

ULACNS rooftop
The conference was not only an event to present one’s work and listen to others, but also a way to meet fellow physicists in an informal environment. Since the best collaboration ideas are usually born while discussing various topics outside the conference rooms, this year a friendly paint-ball tournament for the conference participants was held.

Paint-ball tournament day
We would like to thank members of the SPIE and OSA student chapters from the University of Latvia for all their hard work, “OPTEK” for their financial support, and Igor Meglinski as well as Zeev Zalevsky for coming to Latvia and giving their awesome lectures.

(This report was written by Elza Linina, a member of the OSA and SPIE student chapters - thank you!)

Regional SYP sessions

The School for Young Physicists project that our Young Minds section organizes not only held monthly sessions in the capital of our country this season, but also held regular sessions in other regions as well. Namely, this season we visited schools in Valmiera, Kuldīga and Ventspils.

Regional sessions take place two or three times a semester in each location. Students from surrounding schools are given the chance to attend a free lecture course - usually session topics that have already been tested in our main events are chosen, but sometimes they get a premier look at a new topic that has not yet been presented anywhere else.

Topics discussed this season in regional sessions include, but are not limited to, probability in physics, electronics and wave optics. Students had the opportunity to conduct experiments normally not done in schools - for example, they determined the distance between the pixels in their own smartphones, or calculated the value of pi by dropping buckwheat on a piece of paper.

Students determining the value of pi experimentally
These regional sessions are educating not only for the students attending - teachers also find inspiration in these non-standard topics and experiments, and materials for use in lessons are often left at schools that are visited for the teachers to use free of charge.

Our Young Minds sector views these regional sessions as valuable opportunities for children that live far away from the capital to get a chance for extra curricular informal learning, so we will give our best efforts to expand in this direction next season.

Visiting teacher looks on as his student works on an electronics experiment

December 2, 2015

YPS 6-1: The physics of forensics
September’s last Saturday was a great, sunny day – and more than 200 students were heading towards the Physics and Mathematics faculty of the University of Latvia to take part in an investigation with a touch of physics. 

The 40 + 40 minutes of popular lectures, lead by forensics specialist Aleksandra, who showed the realities of working in the field, and physics mastermind Ģirts, who solved a crime with pure physics, were a blast. Because of the sunny weather, the practical task was conducted in a park near the faculty – students were split into groups and went to solve their own crime. They measured the height at which a lethal bullet had impacted, weighed it and calculated the distanced it must have traveled – revealing the killer in the process. The final lecture was presented by a delegate from State Forensic Science Bureau – Gatis Bebris, who lead us through different physical and chemical methods, which are used in order to solve real crimes.

YPS 6-2: An energetic morning 

On October 17 the second course of the season took place. In the first popular lecture Andris and Aigars reminded the students what exactly is the number we call energy and what are its forms. Thereafter, in the second popular lecture Jānis and Kirils expanded the topic towards a very famous equation in physics E=mc2. When it came to the practical part, students tried to create a sand turbine that would convert one type of energy into another and measured its efficiency (some turned out to be too good to be true ☺). In the end, Austris and Konstantīns from Siemens energy technology department explained about their own work and how learning about energy is useful in the real life.

September 11, 2015

International student and young scientist conference "Developments in Optics and Communications 2015"

The 11th international student and young scientist conference “Developments in Optics and Communications 2015” was held during April 8-10 in Riga, the capital of Latvia, and it gathered around 70 brilliant young scientists from 8 different countries – Latvia, Poland, Denmark, Russia, Armenia, Germany, Italy and Georgia – to share their scientific works, insights and experiences in various fields related to optics: vision science, biophotonics, laser physics and spectroscopy, optics in communiacions and optical materials.

The organizers were happy to welcome two international guest speakers: Dr. Pablo Artal from Spain and Prof. Dr. Lise Lyngsnes Randeberg from Norway. Prof. Dr. Pablo Artal explained the novelties of vision science (“The human eye as a robust optical system”) while Prof. Dr. Lise Lyngsnes Randeberg explained the current progress with non-invasive diagnostics of human skin (“How do optical properties affect light transport in tissue, and which parameters do you need to care about in the lab”). Guest speakers from Latvia gave very interesting talks as well: Dr. Aivars Vembris of Institute of Solid State Physics talked about the main principles and advances in organic solid state lasers, Dr. Dainis Jakovels of Institute for Environmental Solutions introduced the audience about “Applications of airborne optical remote sensing techniques for environmental assessment and monitoring”, Dr. Florian Gahbauer of Faculty of Physics and Mathematics gave a talk on “Nitrogen vacancy centers in diamonds for sensing and quantum information”, and Evija Gulbinska of Latvian American Eye Center talked about “Visian ICL: intraocular collamer lens for refractive correction”. During the conference, also a workshop was organized by Jurita Kruma of Digital tribe WWWOLF on self-motivation and time management “So, I woke up today, and what now?”

The scientific work and presentation of every participant was evaluated by our jury. The best speech and poster holder received a monetary reward for their work. This year the best poster award was given to Andris Bērziņš of University of Latvia for his poster “Magnetic field imaging using nitrogen vacancy (NV) centres in a diamond lattice”. The best oral presentation award was given to Tatevik Chalyan on “Performance optimisation of biosensors based on SiON microring resonators”.

As well as attending the many talks and poster sessions, participants had the opportunity to spend time with fellow scientists in an informal atmosphere – during the Welcome Party, orienteering in the Old Town of Riga and during the conference afterparty. This year International Year of Light was a theme throughout the whole conference – the conference logo was also adjusted for this special celebration year.

This conference was organized by SPIE and OSA chapters and Young Minds student section of University of Latvia. 
More information: www.docriga.lv

International Year of Light Welcome party during the conference “Developments in Optics and Communications 2015”

During the international student and young scientist conference “Developments in Optics and Communications 2015”, a special Welcome party was held to celebrate the International Year of Light, although it was a theme throughout the whole conference. The conference logo was adapted this year to include the logo of the International Year of Light. It was mentioned during all three conference days that this year it is a special year for our conference, organizers and also participants and that this year even more than before we are celebrating Light.

Each participant got a present in their conference bag – a pin with the International Year of Light logo. During the Welcome Party most of the participants had it attached on them. The Welcome Party included different activities: introduction game in which all the participants could get to know each other better and other games.  A KHET Laser Game tournament was held that allowed participants to challenge each other intellectually as well – this game needs knowledge on how light rays reflect, and also some strategic thinking to predict the opponent’s next moves. A Quiz about Physics and Light was held during the Welcome party to see who can get the right answers the fastest. There were snacks and refreshments available for the participants to enjoy.

During the International Year of Light Welcome party, which was held in the evening of the first day of the conference, participants got to know each other better, got a chance to network with each other not just regarding their scientific work, but also to discuss and share ideas about different outreach activities that can be organized. The organizers believe that this event was very useful for everyone, and participants enjoyed it very much. 

May 6, 2015

School for Young Physicists

April 11th concluded the fifth season of School for Young Physicists, a monthly event that gathers up to 200 school children from all of Latvia. This past season, it took place eight times - once a month September through April. The average attendance was approximately 150 students each time. Every month a different topic is explored, the latest being the physics of rotation. The activities include two popular lectures lead by students from the University of Latvia, in which basic concepts of the theme are introduced in an easy to comprehend and entertaining manner.

Thereafter, the attendants experience in real life the phenomena introduced in the lectures by conducting an experiment, which always is made in a way that is different from what students do in school. Lastly, a professor from the University of Latvia tells a more in depth story about the month's topic, usually involving a more scientific approach than the popular lectures.

As the whole event is five hours long, there is a pause after each activity, during which the school students can stretch their feet or have some tea and grab a bite from the snacks provided. Each time we prepare various types of sandwiches with cheese, vegetables etc. and chocolate and cookies later on.

After the popular lectures, the children take a test and the best receive some small awards. The test scores are all gathered up and kept throughout the season in order to see which perform the best overall. At the end of the season, the best students are awarded larger prizes for their performance throughout the year. This season also saw the debut of the School Cup, which was won by students from Tukums 2nd Secondary school.