RGS physicists reach final frontier in Physics Olympics
3rd Jul 2017

Aditya Kailaje from Team Baryon gives an insight into the Physics Olympics.

Two teams of four young physicists made their way to Wycombe Abbey School to participate in the Physics Olympics 2017. A competition between six schools, twelve teams. A contest of concentration, problem-solving skills, mathematics, and a test of their passion for and ability with Physics.

This year, the teams were named after particle groups within the Standard Model of Elementary particles. RGSHW was represented by two teams – Team Baryon (Joshua Henry, Aditya Kailaje, Eeshaan Ghanekar, Louis Bonnefoy,) and Team Hadron (Barney Annetts, Lewis Li, Omar Farooq, and Xavier Davis.)

The schools were given the timetable for five challenges they would be facing during the day accompanied by brief explanations about each of them. The schools were also given their bonus question booklet which consisted of questions that tested the students’ understanding of conversion of SI units and problem-solving capabilities. The score from this booklet would be added on to the final score to determine the overall standings. 

Weighing the balloon and the monster
Our first activity of the day. This was probably the most practical one. The pupils had to weigh a balloon and a bean-filled monster with a few masses ranging from 5g and 15g to 1kg. The whole point was to get as close as possible to the actual weight of the two objects. The initial aim was to finish before the other teams in order to check over. However, as the half hour ticked away, there was no rechecking. The monster was fairly accurate and earned RGS some valuable points. When the balloon was checked, however, we were only 1.4g off the actual weight, which seemed like a triumphant success. Considering that the balloon was giving a lift of merely 2g, however, we realised that we missed the ‘bull’s eye’ by 70%. That is a lot lost when we speak of points. Then, we moved on, hoping to do better in our next activity, which we did!

Laser Golf
This activity concentrated on accurate measurements and a measure of teamwork. The aim of this experiment was to gain an insight into the beam of light and its behaviour when it is put up against mirrors. The objective – to get the laser beam into the centre of the hole using only three mirrors, repeating this for five holes, each positioned in different zones. However, there was a twist to the seemingly easy experiment. If the mirror is in three different zones, the team would get more points than if all the three were in two zones, or one zone. Once the teacher would check your setup, a team member had two chances to repair the faults, and then what they got on their third try would be their final result, though the highest score among the three tries would be recorded.

Let the breeze flow
This creative experiment helped the students understand the concept of air resistance and buoyancy – of how boat sails work and how the boats stay afloat. The pupils had to make their own boat from three plastic teacups, wooden ice cream sticks, paper sticks, plasticine, a sheet of plain paper, and a sheet of aluminium foil. This boat would only be triggered by a gust of wind from a fan, which would propel it along to the end of the minuscule model of a straight channel. The channel was about 2m long and 12cm wide, in which our boat reached the end in 8.4s. We were ranked second in this event.

Making the paper tower
This was the second creative experiment which got our brains working about balance. This experiment taught the students how balance worked under weight. A tower was to be made from magazine paper. The tower had to be at least 30cm in height, so we couldn’t just roll up the magazine and tape it up! So, we made a tower carefully designed to not lean over, because if the tower leaned even a bit, it would then continue falling till it hit the ground. We ended up calling the tower the ‘Leaning tower of Tape.’ It worked anyway and stood steady under a load of 850g, however, at 900g, it buckled. We narrowly missed the best team at 950g, earning a second place.

The Final Frontier
This experiment was probably the most scientific and brainy one of them all. In it, we had to design a circuit which would turn a light bulb on after 20s. The closest to 20s would win the prize. The difficult part was that the only timer given was sand. The timer was to be made so that the correct amount of sand would outweigh the mass on the other end of the ruler make an imbalance to fall onto aluminium foil (a conductor) and form a complete circuit. Here, we did not get any trial time, and yet we managed to get second place, missing 1st place by 0.1s! If this would have been won, we could have achieved joint first position with Magdalen College School overall!

Our Prizes
We would like to congratulate my team on this wonderful win. We deserved the win, especially after Mr. Hale giving us training sessions at three occasions at lunch breaks of an hour each. I would also like to thank him for this opportunity and the time he has given up explaining fundamental stuff to us and cooperating with us to play a huge part in our wins.
As our prizes, the first four from Team Baryon received silver medals denoting our second place and Team Hadron received a pack of Smarties from and the jar, too, since they were the closest to the actual answer. So, I could conclude with one statement - We looted the event!
About the organisers
The Ogden Trust in partnership with Wycombe Abbey School – their hub in Buckinghamshire and Chiltern, made this exciting Physics event possible.
The Ogden Trust is an organisation which aims to encourage and promote the learning of Physics through the sponsorship of:
talented students studying physics at undergraduate level
undergraduate and postgraduate students who wish to become physics teachers • programmes and projects supporting physical science teaching in primary and
secondary schools
We are thankful to them both for organising this event to give us a real taste of Physics.