APS News

Students Compete in Physics Olympiad Boot Camp

By Ernie Tretkoff

After an intense nine days filled with physics problems and lab experiments, five team members and one alternate were selected to represent the United States in the 2004 International Physics Olympiad.

The traveling team was chosen from the 24 high school students participating in the annual "physics boot camp," held at the University of Maryland, College Park from May 21 to May 30.

The traveling team members are: Eric Mecklenberg (Gates Mills, OH); Anson Hook (Princeton, NJ); Elena Udovina (Shaker Heights, OH); Jeffrey Middleton (Austin, TX); and Yi Sun (San Jose, CA). Also chosen was alternate Daniel Whalen (Andover, MA).

The two dozen students attending boot camp were selected on the basis of their scores on two competitive exams, as well as recommendations from their teachers.

"These 24 students represent the crème de la crème of high school physics students," said Bernard Khoury, executive officer of the American Association of Physics Teachers, which co-sponsors the US physics team along with the American Institute of Physics.

During boot camp the students' schedule is jam-packed with physics problem-solving sessions, labs and exams. The opportunity to use the university's laboratory resources is especially valuable, said Khoury. Labs had in the past been a weakness of US physics teams, in part because many high school students do not have the chance to become familiar with laboratory equipment and procedures. The boot camp program also includes a visit to NASA, and the students get some free time during the week for socializing and playing games.

These students will travel to Pohang, South Korea to represent the US in the 35th International Physics Olympiad, from July 15-23. The first Olympiad was held in 1967; the United States has been participating since 1986. This year, students from 72 countries plan to attend.

The US students will compete in a difficult series of theoretical problems and laboratory experiments, similar to what they practiced at the boot camp.

Crucial to the team's success will be the hard-working group of coaches, consisting of Academic Director Mary Mogge, Senior Coach Robert H. Shurtz, Coaches Nicholas Park and Paul Stanley, Junior Coach Andrew Lin, Lab Coach Warren Turner, and Lab Assistant Violeta Prieto-Gortcheva.


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