Luther College chapter of Society of Physics Students receives national award

April 16, 2021

The Luther College chapter of the national Society of Physics Students has received the 2020 Outstanding Chapter Award. This is the highest award, granted to only 15% of chapters annually, and recognizes Luther's chapter for its involvement and outreach on campus and in the larger SPS community.  

"SPS is a way for students who are interested in physics and engineering to get together and have fun doing small construction projects and design competitions," said Erin Flater, Luther College professor of physics and SPS advisor. "It's also a chance to learn more about physics, about summer research and internship opportunities, and about what scientists and engineers do in their careers." 

Luther's SPS chapter is open to any student interested in physics and enables them to develop leadership and problem-solving skills, become immersed in a professional community and learn more about careers in physics. 

"Being a member of our SPS chapter makes me very proud," said Dalton Ludington '22, SPS vice president. "We all know that the past year has provided some interesting challenges. In leading this program, I have learned problem-solving skills and how to think outside of the box. Physics really is fun and we try to capture that."

In addition to receiving the Outstanding Chapter Award, Luther's SPS chapter leaders were invited to write an article for The SPS Observer. The SPS Observer is the magazine of the Society of Physics Students and is printed quarterly by the American Institute of Physics. The article, "Hot Wheels, Cloud Chambers, and 3D Printing: A Hands-On Approach to Chapter Meetings," was written by Abbigail Fahrenkamp '20, Owen Johnson '21 and Flater. 

"Prior to writing the article," said Johnson, "I assumed that all SPS chapters had meetings similar to ours: gatherings where we do physics activities like building balloon cars and Rube Goldberg machines. However, that is apparently not the case - our approach is pretty unique among chapters." 

The article highlights how, despite the virtual nature of meetings in 2020, the Luther SPS chapter student leaders planned meetings that engaged their members. The leaders provided members with supplies so they could participate in virtual spaghetti-bridge building competitions and other activities that made sure members felt connected to their Luther chapter. 

"I am so proud of our SPS students. The engaging activities they are creating are getting national recognition," said Flater. 

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