During the Easter holidays eight members of Year 10 took part in a three-day residential physics course at Stowe School in Buckinghamshire. The girls were divided into two teams of four and were faced with seven separate challenges, ranging from designing and making a one-minute timer to finding the mass of an alien in space, and from predicting the planet most likely to exist in the ‘Goldilocks Zone’ to building and racing model dragster cars.
Extreme Physics began in 2009 and is subsidised by The Ogden Trust, http://www.ogdentrust.com, which aims to maximise the educational opportunities available to young people wishing to study physics. The challenges were marked in four categories: Knowledge, Achievement, Creativity and Teamwork and between them the two HMSG teams won a total of nine rosettes for gaining maximum marks in various aspects of their work. In addition, two special prizes of Easter eggs were awarded to Georgiana, for the best log book and to Mia, for the best presenter in the final challenge in which teams had to explain an aspect of physics to the audience, consisting of the teams of students, the judges who were all physicists, and some non-scientists.
A memorable part of the course was an inspirational lecture by Dr. Andy Newsam from Liverpool John Moore’s University, who is Director of the National Schools' Observatory (NSO), which allows pupils to make observations (and carry out experiments) with the world's largest robotic telescope, aptly named the Liverpool Telescope, after the city where it was made. Dr Newsam spoke about his research, which involves getting observations from a large number of telescopes all over the world (and sometimes above it) and trying to measure faint objects or tiny changes in brightness.
Another highlight of Extreme Physics was a trip to Airkix in Milton Keynes, where the girls and their teachers experienced the excitement of how it would feel to be free-falling at 110 mph by going indoor skydiving, above what felt and looked like a jet engine, which thrust out air with such a force as to make us float effortlessly. After this the climbing wall felt very calm and safe!