Playing with light

Fuelling a passion for physics

The Department of Physics worked with Merton College to support education charity Physics Partners schools competition: What Lights up your Love of Physics? The competition invited Year 12 students in teams of up to three to create captivating videos that showcase what fuels their fascination with physics. Nearly 100 schools from across the UK submitted entries – three-minute films that were judged on their content, creativity and clarity – and the winners were announced during a two-day residential at Merton College, where students premiered their videos and engaged in Q&A sessions with the judges.

The residential also included visits to the Department of Physics at Oxford where lab tours gave students an insight into the world of advanced research, from quantum computing to applied superconductivity and a talk by Dr Becky Smethurst, astrophysicist and YouTuber. Dr Smethurst, who has 744,000 subscribers to her YouTube channel, spoke to the students about her journey from school to astrophysics research and science communicator.

The overall winner was Charlotte from Bishop Luffa School, Chichester. Her captivating video, ‘The Man Who Measured Time to Save Lives’, explored the remarkable story of John Harrison through a compelling narrative, engaging content, and a LEGO model of the grasshopper escapement. Laura from Leeds Mathematics School took second place with her poetic exploration of physics, while Joseph, Krystian, and Thomas, from Bishop Stopford School, secured third place with their enlightening video on ‘Emission Spectroscopy’. As the winning school, Bishop Luffa School will receive funding to visit CERN, the world’s largest particle physics laboratory, providing an unparalleled opportunity to witness science in action.

Professor Alan Barr was one of the judges for the event: ‘The standard of entries was so impressive; students demonstrated a great depth and breadth of physics knowledge as well as stand-out creativity. It was clear that the format of the competition really captured their imaginations and it was fantastic to be a part of an event that so encouraged the next generation of physicists.’

Dr Sian Tedaldi is Outreach Programmes Manager for the Department of Physics: ‘We are always looking to develop and support initiatives that inspire a passion for physics. Physics Partners’ mission to improve physics teaching in state schools is closely aligned with our own work and it was a fantastic event to be involved with.’

The project idea was conceived by Professor Simon Saunders, Emeritus Professor of Philosophy of Physics at Oxford and Fellow of Merton College, and made possible by funding form the John Templeton Foundation.