The top young physicists from 29 countries will gather at Shrewsbury School next week for the International Young Physicists' Tournament (IYPT). Known as the ‘Physics World Cup’, this is the largest and most prestigious competition for school science in the world. It is the first time in the Tournament’s 27-year history that it has been hosted in the UK.
The UK team is made up of three Shrewsbury students and two from John Leggott College in Scunthorpe - the seventh time in the last ten years that Shrewsbury has represented the UK in the IYPT. The other teams will be arriving in Shrewsbury on Thursday 3rd July from across the world - Australia, Austria, Belarus, Bulgaria, Brazil, China, Croatia, Czech Republic, France, Georgia, Germany, Hungary, Iran, Kenya, Korea, Macao, New Zealand, Nigeria, Poland, Romania, Russia, Singapore, Slovakia, Slovenia, Sweden, Switzerland, Taiwan, Thailand, and Ukraine. Macao and the United Arab Emirates are entering the Tournament for the first time this year; and intriguingly Iran will be sending an all-girl team.
Chairman of the IYPT Organising Committee and Shrewsbury Physics Master John Balcombe expects them to be a force to be reckoned with: "I have come across Iranian girls previously in the tournament, including the final in Germany in 2012 when they came second to eventual winners South Korea. They are formidable opponents and certainly not lacking in confidence."
John’s planning and organisation for the Tournament, which takes place over a full week, began almost two years ago and he has been working tirelessly and meticulously to ensure that every element of the event is a success. From raising thousands of pounds of sponsorship and support from UK companies and scientific organisations, to registering teams and helping them sort out travel arrangements and issues with visas, to writing the Tournament brochure, creating the UK IYPT website www.iypt.org.uk, gathering together a distinguished international panel of physicists to act as jurors, planning the Opening Ceremony, putting together a programme of trips and excursions, designing IYPT bags, medals, stationery and T-shirts, John has somehow managed to fit in a full-time Events Organiser job in addition to a full teaching timetable.
He is delighted to be able to welcome back some of his former pupils and IYPT stars, including David and Seren Kell, who will be compering the Opening Ceremony. He is also delighted that Lord Rees, Astronomer Royal and Old Salopian, will be returning to Shrewsbury for the Opening Ceremony - flying back specially from a conference in Geneva - and will be giving one of the keynote speeches. Guest speakers also include Professor Peter Norreys, Professor of Inertial Fusion Science at the University of Oxford and Plasma Physics Group Leader of the Central Laser Facility, Rutherford Appleton Laboratory; Evgeny Yunosov, Founder of the IYPT, from Russia; the Headmaster Mark Turner; and Alan Allinson, President of the IYPT, from Australia.
Mr Allinson is making his second visit to Shrewsbury School, having first visited it in 2005. “I thought what a wonderful venue for an IYPT it would make. Charles Darwin studied here and then changed the world!”
At the end of the Opening Ceremony, the draw for the tournament will be made – using replica Royal Mail postboxes – to determine the order of play. The first of the five preliminary rounds will take place that afternoon. The Tournament takes the form of a series of ‘Physics Fights’. The teams challenge each other to present their solutions to a selection from 17 very challenging problems that they have all been working on for months. A student from another team then attempts to tear holes in the presenter's solution, and a third team reviews the contest and attempts to build in pertinent points of their own. These Physics Fights are adjudicated by independent jurors and can become very heated indeed, with scientific and national reputations at stake!
Alongside the serious physics element of the Tournament, there will also be a fun and enjoyable social side. Thanks to the generosity of the Inronbridge Gorge Museums Trust, all the team members will be visiting the World Heritage Site of Ironbridge Gorge and the Ironbridge Museums, and they will also spend a day at the Royal Airforce Museum Cosford. The Tournament will be rounded off with a party on the final evening.