The SOPHia project aims to encourage more students, especially girls, to take up physics as a Leaving Certificate Subject. There is a three to one ratio of male to female students taking physics at Leaving Certificate level in Ireland. This has a knock-on effect on the numbers of females taking physics at third-level, and ultimately taking up senior roles in academia and industry.
The Department of Physics and the Science Learning Centre at the University of Limerick, in partnership with the Institute of Physics in Ireland, initially launched the SOPHia Project in 2018. The project aims to encourage young people to form positive perceptions of physics, and to help address the gender imbalance in physics. The project is funded under the Science Foundation Ireland Discover Programme.
The project comprises:
- A school visit programme that involves undergraduate students of physics delivering a workshop to junior certificate, transition year and upper-primary school students.
- A student competition for projects researching famous physicists/important physics discoveries/local physics;
- A showcase event to inform teachers of the issues with regards to addressing the gender imbalance in physics;
- An interactive website for parents, teachers and students, to supplement the school visit programme, with curriculum-linked activities, including our Beewise blog and helpful links and resources for the Physical World and Earth and Space strands of junior cycle science.
In 2020 we will broaden our reach as follows:
• Expanding the impact of the project through dissemination of the outreach model in partnership with the Institute of Technology Carlow
• Partnering with Tait House community organisation to co-create activities with students from urban schools
• Reaching out to adult members of the community through parent evenings
• Targeting pre-service science teachers to inspire an interest in physics, and awareness of its importance for female students
• Helping students, teachers and schools make the link between physics the environment through developing educational resources