Transforming Summer Camp: QC Quantum Physics

Wondering what it’s like to take a weeklong QC summer camp on Quantum Physics? Michael Finnegan, founder of QuantumCamp, shares his experience last week teaching one of QC’s most popular science courses.

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I had 15 students in my Berkeley Quantum Physics summer camp last week. They had divergent backgrounds, varied academic experiences, and widely differing reasons to be sitting in a classroom in the middle of July tackling quantum physics. Some, jaded by boring science in their regular schools, were there because their parents made them. These students were kind of dreading the 30 hours of physics in front them. On the other hand, some students already know they love science and were excited to begin. 

Knowing this, there is very little I can do in the first moments of class to inspire the wary. Yet, by talking too long, you can actually turn off the students who are initially excited. So clearly we know it is best to usher the crew into lab right away. 

Within moments, all students are probing the key ideas upon which quantum physics is founded. They have already forgotten why they are doing physics in the middle of July. They are conducting experiments they themselves set up. They are seeing amazing phenomena and talking about it. They are forced to either make up their own words or ask me what the name of something is. I am not telling them anything unless they ask. 

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By the end of the week, a story of physics emerges. Students are able to interpret beautiful patterns of light emitted by the elements of our universe formed billions of years ago. They are staring directly into the fundamental make-up of every atom in our universe. 

They are indeed exhausted by the end of the week. Who wouldn’t be after 30 hours of physics! But when they put together the finishing touches on the true nature of the atom, the whole class broke into applause and cheering. I have been teaching this course for 4 years, but I was quite moved by these students.

We still have two weeks of summer camp left, including a session of Quantum Physics! Learn more about our camps at www.quantumcamp.com.