Practical physics, for everyone

Perhaps the most important way we can communicate fundamental physics concepts to children - or, indeed, to anyone unfamiliar with the subject - is through experiments. Many such experiments are simply impractical for educational institutions at the secondary level and lower, particularly for schools with the least resources, where outreach is most needed. Compounding this effect is the requirement for manipulation and repetition, allowing the student to explore relationships between variables through the development and testing of hypotheses. Now, as we continue to work and learn through a pandemic, rendering any form of hands-on public activity a health risk, practical experience is even less accessible to students.

Yet, regardless of whatever obstacles we face, people still need practical demonstration of concepts to effectively understand them. So what can we do? Bring it online of course! To account for the natural detachment from the subject matter produced by the online medium, we can frame the experiment as would be done in a classroom: a story. In this story, the student is tasked with firing a projectile at a target on three different planets. Along the way, the student is guided by an astronaut avatar who explains the underlying physics principles governing the results of the experiment. In a separate game, the student is familiarized with fundamental subatomic particles through a fun ‘personality test’, pairing them with the particle they most resemble.

Technologies used

We used a variety of platforms in order to facilitate collaboration while maintaining organization. Our coding was done in Python, and we used github and visual studio code to enable collaborative coding and debugging. Discord was used to organize ideas, progress, and subteams. HTML, CSS and JavaScript were used to host the website. For the Instagram filter, we used Spark AR and Javascript and Figma for collaborating and creating the front end designs.
A lot of caffeine was also essential to our success. 


We faced many challenges throughout this process, however we didn’t expect it to be easy! We were dedicated and resilient and didn’t let setbacks get in our way. The time zone difference meant we had to stay up into the early morning to join feedback sessions and workshops. 
One of the most difficult aspects of this project was the sheer amount of new information that one had to absorb, and then apply in a short time. For instance, the Python library we used was one that none of us had previously used, which meant that to diagnose a problem, we had to rely heavily on Internet searches, and trial-and-error. Aside from this, the remote nature of the Hackathon also made collaboration extremely tedious. Collaborating on code meant using tools like Git, with which most of us had little familiarity. 

Learning to use Spark AR and it's novelties were a bit confusing. It's a new piece of technology and documentation wasn't as clear cut as we thought it would be. All of the images in our instagram filter was custom built so creating all the designs was a big task and required close collaboration with team members. Additionally, we found that matching a personality towards a physics particle can be particularly difficult because wasn't a chart or somewhere we can easily reference it and required us to create our own way of classifying personalities to particle physics.


We are a team of diverse backgrounds, and because of that, we were able to teach each other so much more throughout this entire process. From mind-mapping calls, to late-night last minute changes, we were always supportive of each other, and passionate about our idea. We ensured to keep a focus on the physics--laying the foundation for more advanced learning--while making it fun. Every member brought something important to this team, and every member was essential to this project’s success. We are proud to have come together to create something we each are passionate about and think can truly make a positive impact. I personally am proud of my entire team and the dedication each member put towards this project, pushing through many obstacles to create something great.

We were able to use Spark AR for the first time and create our first augmented reality game which will eventually be shareable with the entire world!!!


The theme of this year's hackathon rang very true to us, we all learned a lot about working together as a team while being apart, and how even though we may not be together, we can still collaborate and help each other with the use of technology. In such a short amount of time, we were able to come together to create something impactful, unique, and engaging that makes learning about physics not only accessible, but fun too. Individually, we all learned a substantial amount about programming, and how to debug collaboratively. We learned the most from each other, by fostering a supportive team that encouraged and helped each other even when circumstances seemed frustrating or tough.

We learned to manage our time effectively, delegate tasks and learn new concepts we never had before. 

Next steps

Continuing with our idea after this hackathon, we hope to make Foundation a fun, interactive space where students of all ages--from middle school to highschool, to curious parents, can learn key physics concepts in an engaging and fun way. We would like to branch into math and other sciences as well, making Foundation a hub for creativity, critical thinking and sparking interest and passion for physics and science at any age. Foundation will always be inclusive and diverse, with representation always being a top priority. Foundation is designed to create an intuitive foundation for more in depth exploration into physics, and all sciences.

We want to publish our instagram filter to instagram. Additionally, we want to continue updating the Instagram filter so it's compatible with more devices. 

One-minute video