Shrewsbury School

Physics Olympics

Friday 11 May 2018

On Tuesday 8th May, Shrewsbury School entered two teams of Third Form pupils to compete at the annual Physics Olympics held at King’s School Chester. 

This was a prestigious and competitive event, with 24 other teams competing from a range of schools.

The eight pupils selected to represent Shrewsbury had previously demonstrated outstanding aptitude for the subject based on internal testing and a three-week series of workshops in preparation for the event. The final team were Timothy Antelo (Rb), Ossian Finch (R), Henry Lawson (O), Mew Hansiriphan (O), Ellie Letts (M), Rosa Li (M), Jake Ludlam (R) and Dylan Tyack (PH).

On arrival at the competition, they were separated into two groups named after eminent physicists: Henry, Tim, Rosa and Ossian were Team Watt, whilst Team Ising was made up of Mew, Ellie, Dylan and Jake.

The Olympics tested the pupils’ team skills, practical dexterity and working knowledge of different areas of physics over six challenges. They were asked to:

  • build a rocket that, when propelled by pressured air, would travel the furthest;
  • use the principle of moments and a eureka can to work out the density of a variety of objects;
  • build a powerboat that could be powered by capacitors;
  • modify a Lego tractor so that it could transfer the most mass up a ramp in the shortest amount of time;
  • tackle a maze using computer programming;
  • work through a series of ‘Fermi’ questions that included estimating how many pound coins would need to be stacked to reach the moon and how deep a puddle a cup of tea would make when spilled!

I was hugely impressed by the team’s tenacity and cooperation when undertaking these diverse challenges, and overall both teams can be proud of their efforts. The pupils had to be adaptable and resourceful throughout the competition - lessons that they should carry with them throughout their time at Shrewsbury. 

Team Watt had a notable highlight in the tractor round, finishing in second place overall, while Team Ising also came second in the maze challenge.

Overall, Team Watt finished in a commendable 16th position and Team Ising came an impressive 7th. Both teams rued missed opportunities to improve their scores across the other events, and with a little more consistency the final classification could have been even better.

However, all the team members have displayed qualities that suggest that they have a bright future within Physics. Perhaps more importantly, they have developed into strong team players who have learnt how to face scientific challenges head on. An excellent effort from all involved!

Richard Barrett

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