A Zone Meeting for the Record Books

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In The Zone - Regional SPS Highlights

A Zone Meeting for the Record Books


Noura Ibrahim, SPS Member, Embry-Riddle Arizona University (ERAU)

 Noura Ibrahim.When the Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University’s Arizona campus, located in Prescott, was asked to host the 2019 SPS Zone 16 meeting, we had just 17 days to pull it all together. Our campus hadn’t hosted a zone meeting in over 10 years, so we were excited to tackle the challenge.

Since the meeting was scheduled to occur just one day before the American Physical Society’s annual Four Corners Section (4CS) meeting, it made perfect sense to have the two meetings back-to-back. Fortunately, most of the 4CS attendees had travel plans that allowed them to be in Arizona a day early. We reserved the Jim and Linda Lee Planetarium for a private show and used this as the key event around which we planned all other activities. Luckily, the planetarium resides in the STEM Education Center, which is both the newest building on campus and the most impressive.

As some of our students are trained to give tours of the building’s most interesting labs, we made this our opening activity and were able to quickly get people moving and mingling while simultaneously making them more comfortable with their surroundings. After the tour, we all went to the planetarium for a private showing of the awe-inspiring exhibit, Space Next. The planetarium was staffed by ERAU SPS officers, which made the experience more intimate and personal. The show lasted about 40 minutes, and by the time it was over everyone was ready for dinner. Italian food never tasted so good, especially after the tiring day we’d all had.

While we enjoyed dinner, we listened to four student talks. The presenters were selected by the SPS officer board based on excellence in their fields and the way they exemplify ERAU’s diverse scientific research interests. The first three talks covered electric propulsion, gravitational waves, and sterile neutrino detection efforts.

The last presentation was all about outreach, which served as an appropriate transition into the activities that followed. Meeting participants had the option of either going to see some demonstrations, attending a stargazing event, or doing both. The majority decided on both, so we first went as a group to one of the physics labs for some fun demos. We got to see the 2019 Science Outreach Catalyst Kit (SOCK) in action, which was a first for a lot of us. A craters demo made a fun mess in the lab, and we also showed off some of our more classic demonstrations. It was really interesting to share our outreach experiences with SPS members from other chapters, especially those in departments much larger than ours.

Lastly, we walked outside to the parking lots, where some of our members had set up telescopes directed at the moon and Jupiter. The weather was far too cold, but seeing the lunar terminator and the Galilean satellites made it worthwhile.
This event was a unique experience for our chapter, made possible by the extraordinary efforts of those who participated and volunteered. Also, a special thanks to the ZC, Dr. Leandra Goldflam, and the AZC, Autumn Durham, whose advertising resulted in high meeting attendance. Putting together this event was a rewarding way to spend fall break, and it was well worth the stress and effort that went into making it happen. As we walked from activity to activity, we heard praise from our guests for our facilities and activities, so we can confidently say that the 2019 Zone 16 Meeting was a success, executed in a record time frame of 17 days!

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