Students put the laws of physics to the test at annual school olympics


They dropped eggs from a balcony, launched Ping-Pong balls down hallways and floated aluminum foil barges loaded with marbles.

Then, they built pasta towers strong enough to survive an earthquake generated by a bowling ball and designed paper planes to fly distances farther than an expanse of classroom. And to test their memories, they answered a 20-question quiz.

Nearly 100 students from 15 area high schools and one middle school participated in the fourth annual Physics Olympics, held yesterday at Liberty High in Eldersburg.

The six-member teams competed for a maximum 1,200 points -- bTC 200 each in six brain-teasers concocted and judged by physics teachers.

Although Team Three from South Carroll High School did not win any single event, the students racked up 1,003 points to take the trophy for first place.

"They didn't win a first in any event, but they scored every time and never scratched out," said Tim Durkin, Liberty High teacher and organizer of the annual event.

Second place went to Southwestern High from Baltimore. The students won 922 points in their first foray into the physics trials. Mike Cameron, their teacher and coach, said the students had a blast and won a real boost of self-esteem.

Walt Whitman High from Montgomery County finished third with 889 points.

The surprise of the day came when Baltimore's Northeast Middle School, the youngest team to participate, finished the day with 676 points.

"These kids stayed after school for weeks so they could learn the skills to participate," said Mr. Durkin. "They did an outstanding job for kids their age."

To the youngest also went a fourth place in the egg drop competition. Northeast was one of nine teams whose eggs did not splatter.

All the participants are taking toys selected by Mr. Durkin for their physics properties, back to school tomorrow as consolation prizes.

"They have to demonstrate the physics behind the toys to their classmates," said Mr. Durkin.

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