Imperial College Physics Masterclass

On the week beginning the 16th of July, myself and 6 other Twyford A level physics students participated in Imperial College’s physics summer school. We took part in a range of activities meant to replicate the process of lectures to lab work during a physics university course, all while in hot competition with other schools around London. The week began with lectures on simple harmonic motion, from springs to pendulums, where we learnt the difference between damped and driven forced oscillators, alongside key equations for what was to follow. We then applied this to real life situations by doing our own experiments. These included seeing whether variables like mass or length were independent of the time period for 1 oscillation of a pendulum, fashioned out of string and blue tack.

After collecting our data we were then taught basic coding on Python 2, in order to do some data analysis. This involved plotting our data points on a graph, and using curve fitting software to find the gradient far more accurately than by hand. We learnt how to use numPy, sciPy and matplotlib, all important for plotting any sort of graph in python. Using all the skills we had learnt, we produced a final presentation of a real life example where forced damped oscillators can be important. As we found out, this could be for bridges that normally sway safely, but how their oscillations can be dangerously amplified by winds hitting in the right direction and time. The best presentations won awards, but unfortunately some could say we were robbed as we came 6th out of the 8 schools. It does however leave plenty room for improvement if students return this year!

By Sophie Sanghera 13F

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