It's Time for.....

The Physics Olympics!

What's It All About?


            The Physics Olympics will be your final compendium in physics; an opportunity for you to put the principles that you have learned in class into action.  You will be working as a team to compete against other teams in five events.  Each team must decide on a team name, design a team flag, and develop a team uniform.

            Each team member will be the team leader for one of the five events.  That team leader will be responsible for delegating jobs within that event, keeping the group on task, and making sure the team's entry into that event is completed by the time of the event.  Team leaders will research the physics of their event and write a minimum 2-page typed paper that discusses their strategy and the theory behind it. Illustrations, graphs, and tables are encouraged. Include any equations and calculations that you used to solve some of your design problems and results.  The paper must include a works cited page with at least two sources.  This paper will be included in your teams P.O. Portfolio.


            As far as grading goes, everyone will receive a team grade based on the number of points earned on the day of the competition, an individual grade based on their written paper, and a team grade based on the quality of their portfolio.


The Events:


  1. Drop the Bomb!: 

Each team will design a system that attaches to a moving cable car.  The system must drop a water balloon "bomb" on a target while moving.  The target design is up to the team and may not exceed 144 inches squared.  The bomb should explode upon impact.  Systems will be judged on accuracy of the drop and creativity of design.  Designs must be quick and easy to set up because there will be a time limit for set-up.

            Materials:  the cable car is supplied; the rest is up to you.

Physics Principles:  Projectile motion, potential energy, kinetic energy, gravity, and velocity.

Questions to ask yourself:

a.  How is potential energy being converted into kinetic energy?

            b.  What role does friction play in your calculations? 

c.  What variables do you need to consider so that your bomb consistently hits the target?

d.  What velocity will your bomb have (both horizontally and vertically) at the instant before it hits the ground?      

  1. Go Fly A Kite!  Each team will research, design, build, and successfully fly a kite. Points will be awarded on flight success (height reached and duration), structural integrity, craftsmanship, and creativity and originality of design.        

Materials:  wooden spars, tyvek sail material, double-sided tape

            Physics Principles:  Bernouilli's Principle, lift, drag, gravity, and      aerodynamics

Questions to ask yourself:

            a.  What makes flight possible?

b.  How can you use trigonometry to determine how high your kite flies?

            c.  What is Bernouilli's Principle?

            d.  Explain the concepts of lift and drag and how they relateto kites.

            e.  What needs to be done to a kite to keep it stable in flight?



3.  Cardboard Kayak Race:  Each team will design a kayak capable of transporting two members part way across Governor's pond, around a stationary buoy and back.  Points will be awarded for speed, and creativity of design.  Points will be deleted for hitting the buoy and capsizing.

     Materials:  Large cardboard box and tape….. That’s it!

Physics Principles:  Buoyancy, Archimedes principle, Newton's third law, rotational motion

Questions to Ask Yourself:

a.  Why do things float?  How can you keep a cardboard boat afloat?

            b.  What is Archimede's principle?

            c.  What makes a boat fast?

            d.  What makes a boat go straight?  What allows it to turn?

            e.  What does Newton's third law have to do with paddling?

f.        How can you calculate the waterline on your boat?


4.  Rocket Launching:  Each team will build a rocket from a kit that will be launched from the football field.  The only components of the rocket that can be altered are the fins and the chute design.  The team will use altitude finders and trigonometry to determine the peak altitude reached.  Points are awarded on height.  Extra points will be awarded for creativity, flight duration, and survivability.                      

       Materials:  Rocket kit (paint and/or decals optional)

Physics Principles:  Newton's laws, force, impulse, acceleration, and basic trigonometry to calculate altitude.

Questions to Ask Yourself:

a.  Rocket design, If everyone starts with the same kit, how can you give your rocket the edge it needs to win?

b.  How can you use trig to calculate how high your rocket flies if you are standing on the ground and it is up in the air?

            c.  What strategies do real-life rocket scientists use when designing             rockets?

            d.  What is the pattern of acceleration for a rocket's flight?


5.  CRASH!  Each team will build a small car that can carry an egg.  The car will be powered by a CO2 cartridge.  It will travel down a track at a great speed and crash into a "wall".  Your job is to build a safety restraint system to protect the egg, but the egg must be able to "see"  out the front windshield.  Points will be awarded based on top speeds reached, protection of the egg, and creativity.

Materials:  CO2 car kit, paint, & whatever you can find

Physics Principles:  Momentum, force, acceleration, velocity, impulse, Questions to Ask Yourself:

a.  How much kinetic energy did your car have when it hit the wall?

                        b.  How much force will your car experience?

                        c.  What materials are good at absorbing force?  Explain why!

d.  What  did you do to minimize force?  Relate that to what auto makers do to minimize force. 


  Physics Olympics Portfolio Requirements


Cover Illustration (10%)

Title Page (2.5%)

Table of Contents (2.5%)

Group Norms (5%)

Team Photo (taken on the day of the event)(5%)

Miscellaneous photos and illustrations (5%)

Papers (kayak, rocket, egg car, kite, & bomb) (50%)

Reflections (1 for each of you!) (25%)


Personal Reflection


          Reflect on the competition.  How did the day go?  How did your particular event go?  Were you pleased with the results or disappointed?

What would you do differently in terms of designing your particular entry to improve it?  What did you learn from the experience?  Was it a worthwhile physics experience (not to be confused with a good way to miss all your other classes)?  Do you have any suggestions for next year?  Did you learn any physics this year?  Do you see physics in your everyday life (don't be embarrassed to say yes)


The portfolio will be graded based on the following

            Creativity, Originality,  Personality, and presentation

            Understanding of Physics Concepts