PhysicsHack: How to Raise Funds for Physics via Crowdfunding

By: Katherine Lee 01/06/2016 5:08PM
Category: Citizen Science

Even a cursory look at recent news headlines reveals just how much of an appetite there is for developments in the field of physics and astronomy. Discovery of liquid water on Mars, 3D printers making human body parts, speculation about alien structures in a distant galaxy and asteroids flying close to Earth are just a few of the many physics and astronomy developments that have riveted the public’s interest in the past several months. 

But ironically, funding for science research, particularly for physics and space-related studies, has been dwindling, even as interest and need for further understanding and research continue to rise. 

It is the mission of Fiat Physica - the world’s premiere crowdfunding platform dedicated to the advancement of physics, astronomy, and space exploration, to not only make physics “accessible, enjoyable, and relevant,” to the public, but to also show researchers how to raise awareness and funding for their projects. To meet that need, Fiat Physica recently hosted PhysicsHack 2015, a bootcamp designed to help science project leaders develop the tools to they need to articulate their project goals and promote their work.

At the hackathon, scientists, science-enthusiasts, media and marketing experts, and the Fiat Physica team mingled and brainstormed all day long about strategies to build a successful campaign and promote it. 

“The transformation we saw that day was phenomenal,” says Aparna Dasgupta, Director of Marketing and Product at Fiat Physica. “Project leaders came in with ideas that weren’t necessarily accessible or understandable to the public, and at the end of the day each group had an incredibly solid pitch for their campaign. This is essential in crowdfunding - especially for advanced concepts.”

Some of the project leaders who attended the hackathon have already posted or are in the process of posting their campaigns on the Fiat Physica site. Many others are taking concrete steps to make their campaigns ready for publication. Take a look at the exciting campaigns that were workshopped at the hackathon which have been featured or are about to be featured on Fiat Physica:

 1. ISSIE: Make Exercise In Space More Fun! 

As mankind looks increasingly into the vastness of space, long journeys are clearly in our future. However, one of the biggest challenges we face is the toll space missions can take on the human body, especially during lengthy missions, such as forecasted trips to Mars. 

ISSIE is a gaming system that can be used while exercising and is tailored for the machines on the International Space Station. “We want to help astronauts onboard the ISS make the most of the time they need to spend on their gym equipment,” says Michael Doyle, a technology manager and developer who has had a lifelong love of space. 

Invented by Michael Doyle’s 9-year-old daughter, ISSIE will be a device astronauts can wear to give them a fun gaming experience in which they’ll be able to interact with objects in the physical space around them while exercising. Once it’s on the ISS, new games can be developed and matched to individual astronaut’s fitness and entertainment needs. Who wouldn’t be entertained by a game that has you run from a dinosaur or take a lap around a part of Mars?

Doyle had already done a lot of the groundwork, including research, planning, contacting JPL and an astronaut, who have already expressed interest in ISSIE. But with Fiat Physica, the Doyles are now that much closer to reaching their fundraising goals.

“PhysicsHack was an incredible experience. The idea of matching project leads, who by-and-large lack crowdfunding, marketing, and social media promotion experience with experts who have that expertise was just brilliant. It was well-structured, giving teams a step-by-step way to prepare their campaigns from every angle. More than that, working with outsiders on our project helped us hone the idea and sparked new ones we hadn't considered yet. PhysicsHack was an essential step in getting our project off the drawing board and out into the world.” - Michael Doyle

2. Can Massive Black Holes Merge?

Zoltan Haiman, PhD, is a professor of Astronomy at Columbia University with nearly 20 years of experience in research in theoretical astrophysics and cosmology. Andrew MacFadyen, PhD, is a professor of Physics at New York University who is an expert in hydrodynamical simulations. Together with his students, Dr. Haiman is the author of numerous influential computer codes used in astrophysics. Haiman and MacFayden are working to create computer simulations of collisions between massive black holes, under conditions expected at the centers of real galaxies.

Merging black holes can dramatically influence the evolution of their entire host galaxy by producing strong gravitational waves. Although gravitational waves have never been detected directly, ongoing and planned experiments on Earth and in space could potentially make this possible. The measurement of gravitational waves could provide a spectacular new test of Einstein’s theory of gravity, and our understanding of space-time and the evolution of how galaxies form. 


At the hackathon, Dr. Haiman was able to gain the tips and insight needed to complete a campaign that was ready for publication, which has now been posted on Fiat Physica! 

“My aim was to create a project description and explain our goals and why this research is important,” says Dr. Haiman. “I found the feedback from non-scientists especially useful, which helped to make sure the text is clear to a general audience. I also appreciated the availability of a professional camera crew.” 


Other projects that were at the hackathon include:

     • A specialized search engine for professionals and enthusiasts who need a “personal assistant” to sort through and find high-quality and reputable space resources.
     • A fusion power generator that would replace all fossil fuels and end all fossil fuel pollution and related energy wars.
     • The creation of 3D animated videos to illustrate the concept of modern physics using a concept called “fuzzy dimensions,” which is a teaching strategy to make quantum mechanics more accessible for both the scientific and general population alike.
     • A platform for high school girls to learn coding at the same time that they help solve a science problem from NASA. The purpose: to counter the current problem of high-school girls, especially minorities and those in lower socio-economic populations, not being given enough resources and opportunity to pursue STEM.
     • To demonstrate GEO/deep-space X-ray navigation aboard a CubeSat using multiple articulated X-ray sensors instead of one. Their main focus at the Fiat Physica Hackathon was to learn about strategies to get more exposure for their campaign.

PhysicsHack 2015 was a successful event for all participants. By doubling our efforts in 2016, we aim to help physicists raise funds for the research and technology that will shape the future of mankind. Let’s make physics happen!


Dans une galaxie près de chez vous from Marion Bérubé on Vimeo.


Did you know you can raise funds and awareness for your scientific research, event, or project right here on Fiat Physica? Click here to learn more.

Posted on: 01/06/16 5:08PM
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Katherine Lee
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#MakePhysicsHappen @fiatphysica

“Fiat Physica shall hand the steering wheel of scientific innovation to the public, allowing them to contribute to science, communication, and discovery directly.”

Szabolcs Marka

Chair of the Education and Public Outreach Committee, LIGO and Associate Professor of Physics, Columbia University
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