School Physicist of the Year (SPOTY) Awards 2020: A Resounding Virtual Success!

The School Physicist of the Year (SPOTY) awards is an annual event, now in it's fifth year at Keele and supported by The Ogden Trust, designed to celebrate the outstanding talent, success and achievements of science (physics) students currently in Year 6 or Year 10 at local schools.

This year a face-to-face awards evening was not possible due to COVID-19 restrictions. However, this didn't stop Ogden Science Outreach Officer, Scott Walker, from ensuring that all the award winners were rightfully recognised and rewarded, albeit virtually.

The virtual SPOTY awards ceremony celebrated the efforts and achievements of all 36 award winners (thirty one Year 6s and five Year 10s) and featured a quick-fire quiz and an introduction to the university. Why not have a go at the quiz yourself? Take a look at the image below and see if you can name all the "famous" physicists and what their contribution to science was/is!

This was followed by an overview of the 2019 Physics Nobel Prize winners and how this research links to research currently undertaken by the Astrophysics Group at Keele, namely exoplanet discovery. Scott also gave the online audience an insight into recent physics developments and exciting things to come - such as the launch of the NASA Perseverance Rover, due for launch on 30th July 2020 and designed to answer the question "did life ever exist on Mars?"

Dr. Jacco van Loon, a Reader in Physics at Keele, then showcased Comet NEOWISE, including an excellent home-captured image of the comet, before delivering a short talk about how he got into physics (it boiled down to being curious!) and finishing up with a fascinating Q&A with the award winners. The enthusiasm of the SPOTY award winners was certainly evident at this point, as the 15 minute Q&A could very easily have gone on for two, three or even four times as long with the number of excellent questions being asked!

“The event was incredibly well received,” explains Scott. “There were over 60 participants at its peak, which is likely to have constituted all (or almost all) of the SPOTY award winners and parents/guardians along with a number of nominating teachers and invited guests.

"Can I just say a huge thank you [Scott] for organising such a lovely event this evening. I can tell [our student] got so much out of it and he has been truly inspired" - Nominating Teacher

"We'd just like to thank you [Scott] for organising such a fantastic awards ceremony this evening. It was very inspiring..." - Parent

“I was very apprehensive about taking the event online and was close to cancelling it entirely back in April,” admits Scott. “But I felt it was really important, especially during the current (difficult) times, that their efforts and achievements were rightly celebrated. Resilience and perseverance are two key skills of a scientist and for these young people to continue to actively expand their scientific knowledge and understanding during 'lockdown' only goes to show they all have bucket loads of both of these attributes!"

“This (SPOTY) experience has, without question, helped build their science capital, feeling of self-worth and identity as scientists/physicists,” concludes Scott, "and these are some of the main drivers for running this event". Scott continues "It is also about supporting these young scientists during one of their key school transition points, KS2 to KS3 or Y10 to Y11, and having the recognition that you are a scientist is a powerful message to take forward". The impact can also be felt beyond the individual award winners, "particularly for the nominating primary schools, a SPOTY award helps raise the profile of science in the classroom and showcase the real world applicability and importance of science in solving some of the biggest issues facing the world today".

A full list of SPOTY 2020 award winners can be found below along with a recording of the awards ceremony for those who were unable to attend the evening, or, if you simply wish to watch the event again!

SPOTY 2020 Award Winners

Year 6

Adham Radwan: Alexandra Junior School
Alfie Amison: Moorpark Junior School
Alfie Howard: St Wulstan's Catholic Primary School
Amy Allen: Ball Green Primary School
Brandon Handley: Gladstone Primary Academy
Cerin Rinu: St. Wilfrid's Catholic Academy
Charlie Ralph: Priory CE Primary
Charlotte Beresford: St Paul's CE Primary School
Clara Hocking: St Johns C of E Primary
Cooper Boulton: Ellison Primary
Daniel Korbel: Saint Nathaniel's Academy
Elliot Groves: Our Lady and St Benedict Catholic Academy
Esme-Kate Evans: Walton Priory Middle School
Georgia Oakley: St Gregory's Catholic Academy
Gracie-Jane Smith: Ball Green Primary School
Harrison Meir: Milton Primary Academy
Harvey Parker-Watson: Grove Academy
Henry Williams: Holden Lane Primary School
Jacob Purdy: Clarice Cliff Primary School
Lucas Stubbs: Burnwood Community School
Mason Willows-Cleverley: Kingsland CE Academy
Max Veblovskis: Stoke Minster Primary Academy
Mohammed Hamza Saghir: Waterside Primary School
Oliver French: Willows Primary School
Pola Gierlicka: St Maria Goretti Catholic Academy
Rowan Fox: Packmoor Ormiston Academy
Ruhi Jahan: Sandford Hill Primary School
Sam Main: Walton Priory Middle School
Theo Jenkins: Hillside Primary School
William Hyde: Yarlet School
Zak Ashiq: Christ Church CE Primary Academy

Year 10

Aidan Murray: Aurora Hanley School
Joel Schofield-Thompson: Madeley School
Mahreen Hasan: St. Thomas More Catholic Academy
Thomas Hewins: Painsley Catholic College
Tobias Rose: Blythe Bridge High School

Accreditation logo for Athena Swan Bronze