Students solve unanswered physics questions in international competition

Octorara Area School District  |  Posted on

2019 USA IYPT Team Members: Octorara students: Kyle Quinn, Ethan Whitney, and Ryan Baggett. Phoenixville student: Colin Murphy; Coatesville student: Ryan Michael Martin LaRue.

What do the following tasks have in common? Build and explain a device that can levitate small objects using only sound waves. Explain why some materials when ground to fine powder change colors and build an experiment that proves the theory. Build a looping pendulum and create a mathematical model that predicts the motion of the system. Answer: They are research questions investigated by Octorara students as part of the school district’s participation in the International Youth Physicist Tournament (IYPT).

IYPT is an international event that publishes a series of physics related research questions that do not currently have published answers. Students complete hundreds of hours of research on these problems, eventually preparing to debate other schools from around the world about specific solutions proposed to the problems. The research is interesting and challenging with many of the solutions being published by student researchers in science journals.

Octorara has won the National Championship three years in a row. As a result, the school district has sent students on to compete at the international level in Singapore and Beijing. This year’s team, which includes students from Octorara, Phoenixville and Coatesville, will represent the United States in Poland. The Chester County Intermediate Unit secures grant funding and supports the travel arrangements for the team. Dr. William McWatters and Mr. Matthew Livingood, Octorara science teachers, mentor and coach Octorara’s students.

Students involved in Octorara’s IYPT program have gone on to study many science related disciplines including: physics, neuroscience, engineering, pre-medicine, and chemistry. Each has credited the experience of the International Youth Physicist Tournament as providing the strong research experience needed to be college and career ready.