xml:space="preserve">
xml:space="preserve">
Advertisement
Advertisement

Students build, launch drop in annual Physics Olympics

ELDERSBURG — Each year, students from across the state converge on Liberty High School to put their brains to the test in the annual Central Maryland Physics Olympics. While some students spend the whole year brainstorming how to increase their standings at the next annual competition, many are attending for the first time, inspired by little more than a love of science.

On Saturday, more than 75 teams of science lovers and new competitors came together to compete for bragging rights and a $1,000 check to the winning team's school.

Advertisement

Each year, the Olympics are split into six different tests of physics abilities, united by a central theme. This year, each of the tasks were named after different "Star Wars" movies, loosely connected to the competitions themselves.

Challenges largely focus on students' engineering abilities, building parachutes for descending eggs, launchers for Ping-Pong balls and paper bridges to hold bowls of marbles. In addition to the engineering challenges was a station where students were asked to estimate either extremely large or extremely small quantities. This year, students were asked to figure out quantities in a galaxy far, far away, with questions asking about how many hairs are on Chewbacca's body, how many pennies would fit inside the Death Star, and how many times R2-D2 has beeped, whirred or whizzed.

Advertisement
Advertisement

Liberty physics teacher Tim Durkin said he and his fellow organizers work to create new challenges for the students each year, adding a level of surprise for students who attend year after year.

"We try to keep it fresh," Durkin said. "The joy is seeing how different groups approach the different tasks. Some try something elaborate, while others try for something simple."

This year the egg drop — the most famous of the Olympic categories — was altered slightly from the past. Students were asked to try and protect two uncooked eggs, instead of just one, from a 4-meter drop.

The change in the rules was tough for students, as many of the devices ended up cracking one or both of the eggs. Teams were scored based on having the lightest-weight device protect the most eggs.

Advertisement

A team from South Carroll High School, consisting of five freshmen at their first Physics Olympics outing, survived the egg drop with no damage, based on a device designed by student Emma Hughes. Hughes said they didn't know what to expect, so they combined several tactics, including parachutes, cones and protective rings, to make sure the eggs arrived on the ground floor safely.

Evelyn Martinez, of the South Carroll team, said she hadn't had much experience with physics but couldn't wait to attend because the challenges seemed so fun. The group agreed that they were looking forward to coming back next year to do even better.

Heather Kelleher, physics teacher at Francis Scott Key High School and a volunteer at the Olympics, said the challenges are an important part of the scientific process.

"It's just a chance to do something with the skills that they're learning in the classroom," Kelleher said. "It's important to get out there and try these things in these kinds of settings."

In the Liberty gymnasium, the Gerstell Academy team worked to build a device that launched a Ping-Pong ball across the room. The team eventually created a slingshot between two hand-held posts, launching their ball halfway across the gym.

Team member Victoria Viviano said this was her first time competing at the Olympics. She said it was exciting to take what she had learned in class into a competitive atmosphere.

"I had been a part of the physics club, and had done a lot of things that were similar to this. I enjoyed it so much in school that I wanted to come out," she said. "I was always good at physics, and now I'm even more interested."

After the competition, a team from Hereford High School took home first place, while Gerstell Academy's team followed close behind in second.

410-857-7890

Twitter.com/Jacob_deNobel

Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement