Young Scientists Compete in PhysicsBowl

By Valerie Lashmanova ‘15 and Julia Zelenko ‘15

Static electricity and the Quantum Theory were only two of the many topics that student had to face as they participated in the annual PhysicsBowl on Wednesday, April 9 in hopes of claiming first prize.

The PhysicsBowl is a competition that takes place nationwide, but schools are judged against those in their geographical region. Students take the exam in their respective schools, and the results then get compared. It is divided into two divisions: Division 01 for the first year physics students and Division 02 is for students who have taken two or more years of physics.

As the bowl was beginning, loud chatter and excitement flourished through the room A320. Everything from waves, to particle physics was being discussed amongst the participants. However, when the time came to begin the test, silence fell upon the room. Everyone buckled down and focused intently on solving the test.

Questions for this competition are retrieved from different physics classrooms and cover a variety of different topics, concepts, and fields in physics. From physics B to Physics C to modern applications of physics, the range makes it difficult for students to answer all of the questions in the short amount of time given.

“The competition is a 40 question multiple choice test that is taken on-line through a service called WebAssign,” said Mr. Howard Spergel, a physics teacher and coordinator of this year’s PhysicsBowl. “The competition is judged by totaling up the total number of correct responses.”

Despite the questions being changed every year, participants are allowed to look at previous exams to see what questions may come their way. However, answering all the multiple-choice questions correctly is still a difficult task. According to (the official website for the PhysicsBowl), it is not expected for any single student or school to cover all of the topics in the contest.

“Time was pressed and you had to think really fast to get everything done,” said Jing Wei’15 after participating in the bowl. “I wanted to see how much I remember of physics after not taking it for a whole year. “

There are a couple of benefits to participating I the PhysicsBowl. In addition to looking impressive on college applications, participating in this bowl can show students just how large the field of physics is and help test skills in what they previously learned.

“I think its beneficial for the students because they will be exposed to some material that we haven’t covered in our curriculum so they know there is a lot more out there,” said Mr. Spergel. “It also gives students a chance to compare themselves with students from around the country.”

Winners of the PhysicsBowl are chosen by those with the largest number of correct answers. For each division, the two top students and the two top schools are given rewards such as prizes and books. In addition, the five students who scored the highest amongst the others in each school receive award certificates.

In a previous year, 14 students competed in the Division 01 contests. Six of these students scored above the overall average and had a highest score of 24., For Division 02, five Physics C students participated, two of which were at or above the overall average.

Each year the PhysicsBowl is becoming increasingly popular from the previous one, according to American Association of Physics Teachers (AAPT) and tries to better student’s chances of getting awards.

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