Rhodes’ Society of Physics Students Awarded Prize for Outreach

The Society of Physics Students has awarded the Rhodes chapter its Marsh White award with a cash prize of $300. This honor has been granted to Rhodes SPS members for their proposal "A Visit to St. Jude Children′s Research Hospital’s Target House." As a result, members of the SPS Rhodes chapter will present physics demonstrations to residents of the Target House, the hospital’s housing for patients undergoing long-term treatment.

The Rhodes chapter has received the award in previous years, and Edoardo Draetta ’16, coordinator of SPS outreach and physics major, says that this is great incentive members to push themselves to create a better event than the last and to continue to regularly schedule outreach.

The goals of this year’s proposal are for patients to have fun and learn from the educational events and for SPS members to gain teaching experience in the community. Eleanor Hook ’18, co-outreach coordinator, says, “It is beneficial to the students to have a relaxed environment in which they can explore the concepts they have been learning in the classroom. In addition, we always include a Q&A session to encourage students to think critically and learn to answer their own questions.”

Hook also notes the strong presence that SPS has had within the Rhodes community in the form the annual Pumpkin Drop, Memphis Day and this year’s haunted house. Throughout these events, a wide range of demonstrations, including a fire tornado to levitating superconductors, have offered Rhodes students the opportunity to learn new information outside of classroom walls. Hook says, “A fundamental part of the liberal arts experience is exposure to new ideas and new ways of thinking, and SPS provides an environment for all students to explore the wonders of the physical world in ways that they might not have otherwise.”

For their next outreach project, students will host a demonstration at Rites to Play on April 18. Students are also working on contacting several schools in an effort to organize robotics clubs as an extracurricular program as well as create a lab set that can be lent to schools in the area. So far, the group has received an overwhelmingly positive response from the schools that they have reached out to. Science classrooms demand extensive resources, and SPS students hope to offer any aid they can to a developing Memphis school system, according to Draetta. Hook echoes this sentiment in saying “by engaging with the general community at Rhodes and beyond, SPS members take learning outside of the classroom and encourage everyone to develop their curiosity in the world around them.”