Physics Olympics

Wednesday, February 17th, 2016
physics olympics
Who knew physics could be competitive? Every year, Chatham High School physics classes compete between classes to create the best inventions out of household materials to complete tasks the most efficiently according to a detailed set of guidelines. Conducted by the New Jersey Section  of the American Association of Physics Teachers (NJAAPT) on January 16 at Monmouth Regional High School, students put their physics skills to the test in five events: Fermi Questions, Straw Cantilever, Bernoulli Ball, Collapsing Domino Tower, Egg Catcher, and the Zero Impact Vehicle.

-The Fermi Questions involved teams of students to estimate the magnitudes of huge and/or difficult to measure quantities.

-The Straw Cantilever challenged students to construct the longest free standing cantilever out of only straws and masking tape.

-The Bernoulli Ball tasked students to quickly guide a ping pong ball through an obstacle course using only a hairdryer.

-The Collapsing Domino Tower had students build a tower out of dominos that would launch a domino the greatest distance when one domino was removed and the building collapsed.

-The Egg Catcher required students to build a device with the shallowest height that could safely catch a dropped egg from a substantial height.

-The Zero Impact Vehicle tested students with creating a vehicle that could traverse without human assistance and get closest to a set distance.

CHS students worked on their choice of two projects for several months as a graded assignment; eventually those who performed the best in the school went on to the state competition. Teachers provided little help with the overall process of brainstorming and execution of individual creations allowing the student teams of two to collaborate freely.  

After hours and hours of preparation, it was finally time. There was a wavering swell of emotions on that early morning bus ride to the competition. Some teams were nervous, hoping that the stars were aligned so they could recreate their success from their numerous tests before. Others were quite confident. CHS junior Frankie Anello claimed his project was “in the back pocket.”

At the competition, schools from across the state brought their best projects to compete for the prestigious title and bragging rights of winning the NJ Physics Olympics. Excitement was in the air. CHS junior Filip felt that “seeing the ideas that teams from others schools had come up with to perform the same tasks” was eye-opening. During each anxiety-filled event, students battled with time, pressure, the environment and unorganization as they worked with great fervor to perform to the best of their abilities. For Chatham, some events went flawlessly while others were a total fluke. At the end the competition, both of Chatham’s registered teams had a mixed bag of both successes and failures, high scores and low. Yet, as the officials named the winning schools, it was Chatham High School that came on top. Chatham took first place in the 2016 NJ Physics Olympics!

Notable Successes

-Frankie Anello and Kyle Kology placing first for the Zero Impact Vehicle with a distance of 1.5 cm off wall.

-Olivia McGeough and Liz Ford placing second for the Zero Impact Vehicle with a distance of 5 cm off wall.

-Mark Ozdemir and Riley Nees placing first for the Collapsing Domino Tower with a distance of ~10 m.

-Stephanie and Jackie Crater’s top contesting Straw Cantilever.

Congrats to all participants!