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School for Young Physicists

4Another school year has passed, and another SYP season has concluded as well. This year, turnout was at its highest level, with an average of 176 students taking part in each session.

The topics covered in the nine sessions throughout the season were:
• Deconstruction of popular urban myths with physics
• The physics of sound
• Radioelectronics
• Astronomy and cosmology
• Simple mechanisms
• Electromagnetism
• The role of numerical solutions in physics
• Geophysics
• General and special theory of relativity

Highlights of the season include (but are not limited to) using an elastic membrane to simulate the bending of spacetime, students being introduced to the numerical Euler’s method, which is never touched upon in any high-school curricula and a UL professor telling everyone the basic idea of why Earth has a magnetic field, explaining the underlying concepts of magneto-hydrodynamics.

The 2nd School Cup was awarded at the end of the season. This year, Aizkraukle Regional gymnasium’s team “Re, kā!” were the winners. They took away the main prize; second and third place winners also received prizes, as did the students that performed best throughout the season. Students thoroughly enjoyed this year, as the season closed with thunderous applause from participants.

Aside from our main sessions, we also participated in a popular nation-wide physics competition “eXperiments”, providing two out of five challenges for contestants to solve in the finals, as well as entertaining the supporters of the contestants with a small show, demonstrating a few fun experiments. The competition is running for the 22nd year, and is well known among teachers in Latvia.

Our summer season has also kicked off: 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.

The full list of experiments and activities (in addition to those already mentioned), all free of charge, includes:
• vinegar and soda bottle rockets
• demonstrations for the gyroscopic effect with a wheel
• a self-programmed puzzle game for all ages
• a membrane for demonstrating spacetime curvature
• a large-sized wave pendulum

The last three activities were new to our workshop setup, and were very successful. In particular, the spacetime membrane with marbles on it acting as planets was popular with kids!

All in all, this year has been a success, and we will look to further improve our monthly sessions and increase the scope of our activities in the future.