Fighting fit physicists

15 Mar 2017

Scientific investigations take time. Since the beginning of the year, the top Year 12 physics students have been investigating problems chosen for the New Zealand Young Physicists’ Tournament (YPT). The group presented their findings at the Level 2 Physics Showcase on the evening of Wednesday 8 March.

As well as extra credits, this project has given the students the opportunity to work together on some diverse and challenging problems – such as, investigating the riddle of the resonating wine glass, building a single lens telescope, creating a balloon air horn or vacuum bazooka, and explaining the mechanics of a gee-haw whammy diddle. All these mysteries and more, each with the potential to be the subject of a “physics fight”, were revealed at the showcase.

Physics fights form the basis of the YPT competition – where one person presents their findings on a given topic, which are then debunked by the opposition. Student Fawzan Sugarwala and a team from Rangi Ruru Girls’ School gave a spirited demonstration of a physics fight in the second half of the evening.

Taking part in the YPT is a way for students to apply physics in a real world setting. “It allows us to form our own theories, research, come up with what we think happens and argue our case,” says Fawzan.

Three students – Fawzan, Wills Wynn Thomas and Jisu Kim – went on to represent College at the Canterbury regional YPT, held at the University of Canterbury on Saturday 11 March. “We had three topics to present and three to oppose, and had to put quite a bit of effort into working on the problems,” says Fawzan. “It was a full-on, exhausting day.”

The team performed well, coming fourth overall.