Schools compete for medals in Physics Olympics

By Robin Cox,2014-07-02 14:51
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Schools compete for medals in Physics Olympics

St. Peter’s Physics Olympics Competition

    Over 100 13 year old pupils, representing 25 schools from across York and the North of England, took part in the Fourth Physics Olympics held at St. Peter’s School this June. The competition is open to all schools, attracting teams from as far away as Newcastle and Bury and has grown each year.

    The competition has six individual events, five of which are similar in style to a mini Egg Race and take about 30 minutes each, with the last exercise being a nearest power of ten Fermi Quiz that is ongoing throughout the day. There are prizes for the six individual event winners and the overall first, second and third placed teams and also mementos of the day for all who have been involved.

    The day is primarily about measurement - the highest, the quickest, the closest etc. It is about precision of measurement - to the nearest mm, the nearest 0.01s and also about estimation where quantities are roughly estimated to the nearest power of 10. How many coffee beans (kindly loaned to us by Taylors of Harrogate) would there be in two

    70 kg sacks identical to the one in the Memorial Hall?’e.g. what is the volume of toothpaste

    that is used in the |U K in a year. It is also about scale with the pupils thinking about -1016atoms on the microscopic scale (10m) up to distances to the nearest star (10m).

    Pupils combine their physics and mathematical knowledge with teamwork and communication skills to work together to complete a task against the clock.

    The day is designed to be fun, but also challenging and stimulating and of course there is, in the Olympic spirit, an element of competition with Gold, Silver and Bronze medal winners. The aim is that pupils come away having both enjoyed their experience and also having learnt some physics.

    The competition has regularly received generous backing form the Institute of Physics and the Rotary Club of York Vikings and this year the Ogden Trust, Taylors of Harrogate and Yorvik Electrical Contractors Ltd have also joined the team of sponsors. Sponsorship money has paid for the T-shirts, medals, trophy, water bottles, memory sticks and Uncle Albert books that the pupils take away at the end of the day.

    Events this year involved constructing a tower from a newspaper and masking tape, designing and making a wind turbine, placing materials in order of increasing density, making a ballista to fire balls at a target and timing a ball bearing down a runway.

Gold Medal Winners: Team Aristotle Royal Grammar School Newcastle

    Silver Medal Winners: Team Feynman Hull Collegiate College

    Bronze Medal Winners: Team Rontgen Hymers College, Hull

    A new feature of this year’s event was the most generous provision of samples by Taylor’s of Harrogate. Tea, coffee and cake were served throughout the day not only to all of the visitors, but also to the St. Peter’s staff and Yorkshire tea sample packs were used in two of the challenges. We were also loaned a 70 kg sack of coffee beans which was the basis of one of the Fermi Quiz questions. Everyone took home a variety of samples and Yorkshire Tea gifts were provided for the medallists.

    I would like to thank all of my colleagues, the support staff and the sixth formers who helped on the day to make this years’ event the biggest and best so far. In particular Graham Metcalf again showed his willingness and expertise in the designing and making of much of the equipment for the games, and Mark Edwards once more displayed his ‘wizardry’ on the computer in collating and presenting all of the competition data. Clearly the competition could not happen without any of them.

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