After its inception ten years ago, the Godwin Physics Club became a social center for students interested in delving further into the realm of physics outside of the school’s traditional curriculum.

Though interest previously seemed to decrease, in recent years, student involvement has climbed, leading to where the club stands today.

Regarding the club’s recent surge in membership, physics club sponsor and Chair of the Godwin Science Department, Michael Fetsko, said, “We had a club for a few years and then the interest seemed to fade, but in the past few years, we have collaborated with the William and Mary Physics Department on a project and the club has returned.”

With 27 years of experience teaching physics and 17 of those years spent at Godwin, Fetsko helped to start the Physics Club in hopes of providing students with a chance to expand their knowledge and appreciation of the subject.

“[The Physics Club gives] students a chance to hear from actual physicists and people that have majored in physics, so that they may learn what one can do with a physics degree. Also, [it allows them] to participate in various projects that I find out about, that exposes them to more physics beyond the classroom–mostly, just to give the students an opportunity to learn more about the universe beyond what we cover in the classroom,” said Fetkso.

Some club activities in past years involve members collaborating with the College of William and Mary in events such as their TribeSat program, where students create their own satellites to be launched into space.

“This project has the students design a thin satellite (the size of a CD holder) that would be placed on a rocket with many other student created satellites from around the country.  Unfortunately, due to COVID we have not been able to participate this year, but I am hopeful that with the upcoming school year that we will be able to participate,” said Fetkso.

The physics club has also participated in events sponsored by the educational program QuarkNet, focused on engaging students and teachers in instructional and immersive physics-based projects and research.

“We have also been involved in a variety of other small projects dealing with particle physics due to a professional collaboration called QuarkNet that I am involved with,” said Fetsko.

In addition to networking with local colleges on projects and club activities, the physics club has introduced a consistent stream of guest speakers, many of whom are past Godwin alumni.

“This past year we have had guest speakers that were former students speak about their work in physics. Summer Blot talked about her work with the IceCube project, Janet Rafner spoke about her PhD work in hybrid intelligence, and Sara Williams spoke about her work in marine biology. All of these women are Godwin graduates that went on to obtain an undergraduate degree in Physics,” said Fetsko.

Speakers also included a variety of professors from local colleges and universities, including the College of William and Mary and Virginia Commonwealth University (VCU).

“We also heard from a physics professor from VCU that spoke about the medical physics program at the university, and a physics professor from William and Mary spoke about the physics of black holes,” said Fetkso.

Students like Jusmun Shokar, Godwin junior and AP physics student, draw inspiration from the sciences which has led many like her to seek out the Physics Club and its many opportunities.

“I became interested in the Physics Club because I was fascinated by the vast realm of physics. Physics is the foundation of the world and explains almost every science known to man, and I wanted to know where and how I could expand my knowledge because the topic of physics is extremely large…I wanted to share that knowledge with our school,” said Shokar.

Aiding current physics club leader and Godwin senior, Ella Kirsch, as well as Fetsko, Shokar heads the search for STEM experts and guest speakers in addition to possible club recruits.

“My role is to help find guest speakers in the science field (physics and other sciences like biology and chemistry), scout for students to join the physics club, and learn about the different fields and jobs in science, especially in physics, relayed through our guest speakers,” said Shokar.

As interest grows and more students are looking to jump into the physics-sphere, students with any interest in physics are encouraged to join the club.

“Anyone is eligible to join. For now, it is made up of current physics students, but we have had freshmen join that just happened to have an interest in physics. Students can join anytime they want simply by sending me an email to tell me that they are interested,” said Fetsko.

In essence, the purpose of the physics club is not just to educate its participants, but to provide students with the ability and knowledge to grow their love of the subject and take their discoveries in whichever direction they choose.

“I am just hopeful that the club is able to provide an opportunity for students interested in learning more physics with a place to share ideas and to work on projects. Maybe the club just might inspire a student to go on and major in physics in college!” said Fetkso.

For further Physics Club inquiries, please contact 

mrfetsko@henrico.k12.va.us

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