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Community Spotlight: UMD’s Physics of Quidditch Camp

Science and sports came together in spectacular fashion this summer, as the University of Maryland Physics Department hosted its first ever “Physics of Quidditch” day camp for middle schoolers.

The week-long camp, held on the University of Maryland campus in College Park, MD, had campers play quidditch in the mornings and learn physics in the afternoons. Various custom lab exercises helped the campers discover the many ways that concepts in physics—including kinematics and aerodynamics—overlap with sports. Campers also took advantage of the department’s expansive demonstration facility, consisting of over 1,600 demonstrations to participate in interactive exercises that explore physical concepts.

For most campers, Physics of Quidditch was their first experience with the real-life sport, and it left a lasting impression. “In [my son’s] words, ‘It was awesome!’” said Karen Kuebler, mother to one of the participating campers. “He loved playing quidditch so much that he is talking about teaching his friends how to play too.”

In addition to practices and scrimmages twice a day, the campers studied the scientific concepts that parallel many of the magical theories from the Harry Potter series. Campers learned about the ways that scientists are attempting to recreate Harry’s Invisibility Cloak and also explored how drag would apply to an athlete who is really flying through the air.

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All in all, the camp fulfilled the Physics Department’s goal of pioneering new ways to teach physics to pre-college students. “The camp exceeded expectations,” said Donna Hammer, the Physics Department Director of Education. “Campers were immersed in physics and exciting physical activities that built and enhanced their athletic skills, problem-solving abilities, analytical thinking and teamwork.”

Due to demand, the Physics Department hopes to expand the camp next year to include two one-week sessions. Applications will open in early 2016.

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