University of Maryland offers “relativity camp” to teach teens about physics

May 12

A kind of relativity camp, a program targeting girls who want to know more about such matters as quantum mechanics and Einstein’s theories, will be held this summer at the University of Maryland.

This sources of this journey into the abstruse can be traced back to 1990 when two Maryland faculty members lamented the lack of a way to interest girls in physics.

Things took off. An application was submitted the National Science Foundation for funding and, according to the university, the result was the Maryland physics department’s Summer Girls Outreach Program.

According to program officials, the first sessions were designed for eighth-graders who would enter the ninth grade in the fall.

Since the ninth-grade program started, more than 1,000 students have attended, with some becoming engineers, doctors, computer specialist and, yes, physicists.

That program is focused on the more sedate topics of classical physics. But its popularity was so great, officials said, that the two-week daytime sessions were extended to students entering the 11th or 12th grades.

The advanced program includes the cutting-edge topics familiar to fans of science fiction and fantasy. Besides relativity and quantum mechanics, the physics department said, the topcis include antimatter, quantum computing and more.

According to an announcement for the program, students will be exposed to topics not likely to be part of the offerings of standard high-school classes. These will range from Einstein’s “thought experiments” to current applications in code-breaking.

Although the program had its origins in a desire to introduce more young women to the fascinations of physics, it is not restricted to girls, program officials said. Boys are invited to apply.

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