Shrewsbury School

Physics: Team through to IYPT Finals in Taiwan

Monday 4 February 2013

A team of students from Shrewsbury School have been named the best in the country, and some of them now have the opportunity to represent the UK at the International Young Physicists’ Tournament (IYPT) being held in Taiwan in July 2013.

L-R: John Balcombe [JB], James Brent, Non Suemanothom, Arthur Kung, Chris Papaioannou, Ed Elcock (captain), Steve Adams [SFA]

The UKYPT Team 2013: Ed Elcock (captain, Rb UVI), James Brent (Rb UVI), Ratanon Suemanothom (G UVI), Arthur Kung (R LVI) and Chris Papaioannou (PH LVI) claimed victory over the runner-up team from The King’s School, Canterbury after winning a series of ‘Physics Fights’ which not only test their in-depth knowledge and problem-solving abilities in advanced physics, but also their presentational skills.
The UK Final took place at Shrewsbury on February 2nd 2013. The jury included Mark Tocknell (ex. Westminster School Physics Dept. and Second Master) and John Balcombe on behalf of the International Organising Committee of IYPT.
All UK teams had been working on the solutions to five open-ended and challenging problems; our preparations began in October with bi-weekly meetings to research the solutions to:
1. Invent yourself
It is more difficult to bend a paper sheet, if it is folded “accordion style” or rolled into a tube. Using a single A4 sheet and a small amount of glue, if required, construct a bridge spanning a gap of 280 mm. Introduce parameters to describe the strength of your bridge, and optimise some or all of them.  

2. Levitation
A light ball (e.g. a Ping-Pong ball) can be supported on an upward airstream. The airstream can be tilted yet still support the ball. Investigate the effect and optimise the system to produce the maximum angle of tilt that results in a stable ball position.  

3. Coloured plastic
In bright light, a transparent plastic object (e.g. a blank CD case) can sometimes shine in various colours (see figure). Study and explain the phenomenon. Ascertain if one also sees the colours when various light sources are used.  

4. Water rise
Fill a saucer up with water and place a candle vertically in the middle of the saucer. The candle is lit and then covered by a transparent beaker. Investigate and explain the further phenomenon.

5. Hoops
An elastic hoop is pressed against a hard surface and then suddenly released. The hoop can jump high in the air. Investigate how the height of the jump depends on the relevant parameters.
The teams were tasked with presenting details of their tests and findings at the final, before being quizzed on their works both by their opponents as well as by members of the jury.
All the international teams are now preparing their solutions these 5 and a further 12 problems – more information on these and the IYPT can be found on
Shrewsbury’s success in this prestigious international competition has been quite extraordinary.  The first year that the UK took part in the competition was in 2003, and since then Shrewsbury School’s team has been judged to be the strongest team in the UK no fewer than seven times!  Our teams have so far travelled to Sweden, Switzerland, Slovakia, South Korea, China, Germany and now Taiwan to take part in the International stage, and came away from China with bronze medals.

The team that will travel to Taiwan in July this year will comprise three students from Shrewsbury, and two from King’s Canterbury. The names of the individuals involved have yet to be announced.


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