SPS held its 2013 National Council meeting last month at the American Center for Physics, bookended by activities at the hotel in Crystal City, VA. The council is composed of two representatives from each of the 18 geographic zones, along with the seven-member Executive Committee. The group is tasked with examining SPS and Sigma Pi Sigma programs, initiatives, and activities, considering potential new directions that best carry out the mission of the societies. Council meetings are generally filled with exuberant energy, with many of the council members visiting the DC area for the first time and looking forward to their first visit to ACP. This year’s group was no exception, and applied themselves to gathering information, exchanging ideas, and committee work.
For the past several years, the council has undertaken an outreach project as part of the meeting. This year, for the first time, SPS hosted a booth at a mainstream street festival, the H-Street Festival on H Street Northeast, a true downtown DC street festival with several live music stages, multiple vendors, and a range of culinary and entertainment attractions. The SPS outreach was appropriately situated in the children and families section, where SPS council members spent the afternoon teaching lessons on the physics of diffraction (with glasses), thin films (bubbles), and non-Newtonian fluids (cornstarch and water). When faced with a late-afternoon downpour, the group donned plastic bag rain ponchos and continued with their promotion of physics to the soggy but eager crowd.
Outreach and service were cited as the most important priority in a vote by chapters attending the 2012 Quadrennial Physics Congress last November in Orlando. And this year, the council adopted the following statement on outreach:
“The Society of Physics Students recognizes that outreach inspires scientific literacy while promoting public understanding of the benefits of physics education and research. Community and educational partnerships also foster curiosity and passion in the next generation. These activities enrich the experience of the participating undergraduate students as ambassadors of science by promoting a deeper commitment to their discipline. We are committed to providing programs, resources, and opportunities that highlight physics and encourage community outreach partnerships.”
The council also recommended that SPS focus attention and resources on zone-level interactions to more fully engage larger numbers of undergraduate students and to increase focus on career resources.