APS News

US Physics Olympiad Team Hosted on Capitol Hill

Rep. Vernon Ehlers (R-MI) addresses the students in the Rayburn House Office Building.
Rep. Vernon Ehlers (R-MI) addresses the students in the Rayburn House Office Building.

In June, the 24 high school students named to the US Physics Olympiad team met with members of Congress at a breakfast in Washington, DC, co-hosted by Rep. Vernon Ehlers (R-MI) and Rep. Rush Holt (D-NJ), both physicists and fellows of the APS.

In addition to the breakfast, the students came from all around the US to attend a grueling physics boot camp at the University of Maryland in College Park, competing to be one of the five chosen to represent the US at the International Physics Olympiad, held in July in Padua, Italy. Teachers at the camp supplied students with guidance on how to solve tough physics problems that ultimately enable physicists to help society, from predicting the size of dangerous, lava-filled areas after a volcanic eruption to designing solar-powered aircraft similar to those used by NASA to monitor the environment and climate change.

Rep. Rush Holt (D-NJ) and Katherine Scott.
Rep. Rush Holt (D-NJ) and Katherine Scott.

According to James Stith, director of physics programs at the American Institute of Physics and a former AAPT president, the breakfast came at a time when Congress is debating the future of science and math education policy. The House will be rewriting the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, the main law that governs Federal support of school programs for K-12 education. "It's important that our teachers continue to keep up with new and engaging approaches to K-12 education," said Holt, who has said that improving the nation's schools is one of his top priorities. Photographs of the students with their Congressional representatives at the breakfast, as well as from the physics training camp, are available online at www.aip.org/physnews/graphics/html/usteam99.cfm.



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