April 24, 2017
School & Youth
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  • The Physics Club allows enthusiastic students to have fun with physics outside the classroom.
    Gracie Fairfax
    The Physics Club allows enthusiastic students to have fun with physics outside the classroom.
  • (L-R) Emily Geis, Gabi Higgins, Zach Souders and physics club co-founder Kaitlynn Lilly experimented with an online tone generator website.
    Gracie Fairfax
    (L-R) Emily Geis, Gabi Higgins, Zach Souders and physics club co-founder Kaitlynn Lilly experimented with an online tone generator website.
  • Physics club members (l-r) Max Boettinger, Lucas Tolley and Matt Wiley experimented with online physics programs.
    Gracie Fairfax
    Physics club members (l-r) Max Boettinger, Lucas Tolley and Matt Wiley experimented with online physics programs.
  • This third-place award from the Physics Olympics hangs in an upstairs hallway at Severna Park High School.
    Gracie Fairfax
    This third-place award from the Physics Olympics hangs in an upstairs hallway at Severna Park High School.

Severna Park High Students Take Third Place At Physics Olympics

Gracie Fairfax
Gracie Fairfax's picture
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April 5, 2017

Twelve Severna Park High School students recently attended the 25th annual Central Maryland Physics Olympics, held at Liberty High School in Eldersburg, Maryland. Though the competition was in its 25th year, this was the first appearance for Severna Park High School, which brought two teams of students from the new physics club advised by AP physics teacher Barry Hopkins. One of the teams, made up of physics club founders Luke Bloom and Kaitlynn Lilly, as well as members Dominic Crino, Spencer Gretz, Alan Sapp and Matthew Wiley, took home the third-place prize.

“We were pretty surprised,” Bloom said. “They announced all the event winners separately, and we didn’t get the high score in any event, but they said that none of the top three won a single event so we thought, ‘Oh, there’s still a chance’ jokingly. … When they announced [third place], it was really exciting.”

The Physics Olympics consisted of six different competitions — three of which the students knew about in advance and three that were a surprise.

“What gave us the edge over other teams was that we scored in all six of the events. If you weren’t able to complete the task, then you didn’t score points,” Lilly said. “We all worked really well together, and we all came together with one idea and we made it work very well, which allowed us to score well.”

The first competition was an egg drop competition. Each team was given shredded paper, tin foil and about a foot of duct tape to create the lightest possible device to catch an egg dropped from four meters without the egg cracking. The teams knew about this competition in advance, and it was the competition that Severna Park High School team was the most successful in.

Up next, teams were instructed to use tin foil to build the tallest tower that could also support a pingpong ball without falling over.

The third competition was a boat competition in which students had to construct boats out of tin foil to support the most amount of weight possible in the form of marbles.

Following the boat competition was the Fermi competition, inspired by the famous physicist Enrico Fermi. The competitors were asked Fermi questions, which are estimation problems involving little actual data, such as “how many times could you wrap the amount of silver bracelets in the U.S. around the world?” as Lilly explained. Students used rough calculations and estimations to answer these questions.

The projectile competition followed. In this challenge, students had to build projectile devices out of Popsicle sticks, a paper towel, a foot of duct tape and tin foil bullets. The goal of the challenge was to use to the projectile device to launch the tin foil bullets into boxes two, three, four and five meters away. They had 15 attempts, and each box was worth a different number of points.

The final competition required students to build bridges between two chairs out of Popsicle sticks, tin foil and duct tape. The goal was to build a bridge that would support the most weight possible.

Both Lilly and Bloom credit their love for physics to Hopkins.

“I didn’t know I would love it as much until taking this class and how passionate I am,” Bloom said. “Kaitlynn also really likes physics, so we decided to start up a club with Mr. Hopkins, who is like the best teacher ever. …it’s definitely because of him that I like it as much as I do. It’s super fun to come to class every day.”

Hopkins teaches solely AP physics at Severna Park High School and enjoys the opportunity he has to teach students who are eager to learn.

“I could’ve retired 12 years ago, but these guys are the reasons I don’t. I still have a lot of fun doing this, and I have no plans to retire real soon,” Hopkins said. “It’s the best kids in the school and one of the best schools in the state, so why would you walk away from that?”

The additional members of the physics club who participated in the Physics Olympics are Max Boettinger, Hannah Drilling, Emily Geis, Gabi Higgins, Kyle Martin and Lucas Tolley.


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