Physics Olympics

Friday, February 8th, 2019


Who needs a sports-based Olympics when you can incorporate physics into it? That’s right, Physics Olympics. This is a competitive tournament that requires all physics students at CHS to complete challenging tasks. This year, there were four different challenges; students had the choice to do either the egg drop or the coffee can racer paired with either the catapult or the zero impact vehicle.

First: The Deathly Egg Drop. This task required students to drop an egg from the D Wing stairwell in hopes that it would land unscathed. Students used an assortment of materials to make their egg catcher, including cardboard boxes, blankets, styrofoam, and even liquids, like slime and pudding. The competition was based on the height of the egg drop and whether the egg was cracked or not. Believe it or not, some students’ egg drops barely rose an inch off of the ground! And, trust me, when the egg cracked, it was not pretty.

Second: The Coffee Can Racer. This task required students to make a coffee can roll down a 1.5 meter ramp (angled at 10°)  in ten or more seconds. Once the students placed the coffee can on top of the ramp, they could not touch it. All they could do was hope that the can would roll on its own. Many students filled their coffee cans with coins or small objects to make it heavier, which helped slow down the coffee can. The longer the coffee can took to reach the end, the better the competitor did.

Third: The Catapult. Trust me, this was a TOUGH task (I mistakenly chose to do this event). The catapult event asked students to use one manila folder,

Physics Olympics
four rubber bands, thirty centimeters of fishing line, and thirty centimeters of masking tape. The goal was to see how far a penny could be launched using your freestanding catapult; minimum proficiency required that the penny be launched at least one meter. (Well, unfortunately, mine went about five inches….).

Fourth: The Zero Impact Vehicle. The goal of this task was to construct a vehicle out of household materials without any electrical component to help the vehicle accelerate. This vehicle could not exceed 2 kilograms or have a dimension greater than 1 meter. The students who competed in this event had to make sure that their vehicle moved within a certain lane without crossing the black finish line. Many students used mouse traps or balloons to power their vehicles with discs as their wheels.


Undoubtedly, many students would say that the Physics Olympics experience is as challenging as the actual Olympics; however, in the end, it is a great and new experience. Although there were no medals, everyone who competed contributed their maximum efforts in order to pass their events with flying colors. Every year, Chatham High School Physics teachers love seeing what creative strategies and products their students come up with.

At the state Physics Olympics competition, Chatham students won first place in the Coffee Can Racer and Penny Catapult events, and Chatham’s team was also able to earn first place overall! Congratulations to all 2019 finalists, and to next year’s contestants...well...may the odds be ever in your favor!