In spring 2018 Francis Davies, Elizabeth Martin, and Ned Taylor visited Queen Elizabeth’s School, Crediton as part of the CDT’s Metabuddies program to run physics sessions related to metamaterials with a group of year 12 physics students. They led a few different sessions over the course of March, in which they talked about their research and what studying a PhD is all about, and held a physics related Q & A with the students. A particular highlight were the indvidual physics challenges related to the PGR’s research the students could choose from, a data-storage and optics challenge (Frank), a programming challenge to find system energies (Ned), and a mechanics and magnetism related challenge (Elizabeth).
- The programming challenge involved using various maths and physics skills and a computer to solve for the energy of different systems and investigating the use of programming in solving physics problems.
- The data-storage challenge involved using a laser pointer and a CD to find out the number of bits stored using diffraction.
- The mechanics and magnetism challenge involved using various pieces of equipment that were provided to design an experiment to investigate the magnetic force between to magnets and its relationship with distance.
The idea of these challenges was to give the students a taste of what it is like to be a researcher. The metabuddies aided them with the challenge along the way, but it was all about them figuring out how to conduct an investigation and solve various challenges, using the knowledge they had acquired from their taught course as well as their own ideas and general knowledge.
An example of a ‘magic trick’: The Metabuddies brought along two almost identical tubes, one made or copper and one made of paper. Drop a magnet into the tubes and you’ll notice it falls much slower down the copper tube than the paper one. The question for the students was: how is this possible? At first, there were apparanetly exclamations that it was a magic trick! But when the metabuddies handed the tubes over to the students to try themselves, that’s when they really started to think. As a group they explained Lenz’s Law without even realising it! It really emphasized how important the hands-on part of physics is in everyone’s learning.
Elizabeth Martin, CDT in Metamaterials PGR & Metabuddy: “It was amazing to see the group transform so by the end they were a well organised team working together and bouncing ideas off each other. In addition to this, the students had more questions about our research and how we came to be doing a PhD in this relaxed setting of doing an experiment in small groups, rather than in a presentation setting.”
Mr Nick Baker, Head of Physics, Queen Elizabeth’s School on the Metabuddies program: “We have had a very positive time working with the metabuddies. They have been well organised and professional throughout. The students found their sessions engaging, challenging and inspiring.”