APS News

Michigan High Schoolers Capture Nanobowl Trophy

2008 Nanobowl winners
Nanobowl winners from left to right: Zachery McKinnon, Christopher Ding and Tyler Johnson
A group of high school students from Rochester Hills, Michigan has won the grand prize in the PhysicsCentral Nanobowl video contest.

The contest challenged participants to create short YouTube videos explaining some aspect of physics and football.

The winning video, called Nanobowl X-IX, shows teams of particles, atoms and molecules competing in a series of matches. A first round match between hydrogen and antihydrogen ends with no winner, as both teams are annihilated. A match between bosons and diatomic oxygen results in a win for the bosons when it gets cold and they become a superfluid. In the final match, when a team of protons faces a team of electrons, electron capture reactions take place, resulting in neutrinos and neutrons. Neutrons are declared the winner. “I’d like to thank the neutrinos, for conserving lepton number,” a cartoon neutron says after winning the championship.

This creative video was the work of Tyler Johnson, Zachery McKinnon, and Christopher Ding, students at Rochester Adams High School in Rochester Hills, Michigan.

“We kind of wanted to do something different. We like learning about particles and stuff,” said Tyler, who is taking a class in nuclear physics at nearby Oakland University. He and his partners read books and looked up information about particles to make the video. They made the video entirely on their own, and they told their physics teacher they had entered the contest only after they were selected as semifinalists.

Many of their classmates and teachers have since watched the video. “We had all these random people interested,” said Tyler. Particle and nuclear physics aren’t part of the high school curriculum, Chris pointed out, so he thinks their video might have gotten some people interested in these topics, he said.

The three students each received a copy of “the World’s Smallest Trophy.”

The Nanobowl X-IX producers also received $1000 dollars cash.  

In addition to the grand prize, several other prizes were awarded:

The award for “Most heartwarming” went to “Physics: An Underdog Story” by UCLA Society of Physics Students.

The award for “Most inspirational” went to “Angelo State Physics and Football” by the Angelo State SPS and the Rams Football Team.

The award for “Most Creative” went to “The Fysics of Phootball” by a group of advanced placement physics students at Greendale High School in Greendale, WI.

A People’s Choice Award went to “Theoretical Football” by The College of Wooster Society of Physics Students.

These winners each received a nanotrophy and a certificate of recognition.  View winning videos.

Angelo State physics professor Toni Sauncy said in an email that the video contest inspired physics students and got the football team involved. “I thought the biggest and most significant part was getting my physics students working with my football players, but it grew well beyond my initial expectations. So, I consider the project an overwhelming success. It brought together the community of learners on many levels.”

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Editor: Alan Chodos
Contributing Editor: Jennifer Ouellette
Staff Writer: Ernie Tretkoff