UBC Physics Olympics has been a major outreach collaboration between the UBC Department of Physics and Astronomy and UBC Department of Curriculum and Pedagogy aimed at engaging secondary science students for more than four decades.
On Saturday, March 5, 2022, we organized our second ever virtual UBC Physics Olympics. We decided to have a virtual event once again to increase student participation and decrease the risk of spreading COVID. We realized that having an online event has its own pros and cons, but decided that at this time, the virtual Physics Olympics was the right choice. More than 50 teams from all across BC participated in the event (more than 400 students). We organized four different competitions as part of the Physics Olympics: Pre-build: Smartphone elevator; Planetary Astronomy Lab; Quizzics, and Fermi Questions. I represented our Department and Faculty and interacted with many teachers. I collaborated with Drs. Valery Milner and Andrzej Kotlicki on the Smartphone Elevator event, which challenged students to build a mechanical device to lower the phone from the table to the floor with the minimal acceleration, while doing it as fast as possible. The students used a freely available Phyphox smartphone app to measure this acceleration, as well as the time it took to lower the phone. This was a great event, as it encouraged students to use the technology they already have to do science. We hope that this app will be used in their science labs from now on.
Based on the feedback from the students and teachers, the event was a huge success. As the teacher, Dr. Louay El Halabi (whose team won the overall First place) has written to me: “Thank you so much!!! A great event as usual attended by a substantial number of teams. Thank you Marina and all faculty who helped make this event a reality. Students need something like that to distract them from Covid routines. Just wrapped a team meeting with the students Congratulating them on their hard work.”
To learn more about the UBC Physics Olympics, please visit the event web site: https://physoly.phas.ubc.ca/rulebooks/
Dr. Marina Milner-Bolotin
EDCP Representative on the UBC Physics Olympics Organizing Committee