May 20, 2005

American Physical Society Announces PhysicsQuest Grand Prize Winners

Council Bluffs, Iowa class wins APS World Year of Physics2005 physics contest, and trip to Princeton, N.J., to participate in Einstein treasure hunt.

College Park, MD – The American Physical Society is pleased to announce that a science class at St. Albert Catholic Schools in Council Bluffs, Iowa has won the grand prize in the Society’s PhysicsQuest contest.

PhysicsQuest is a World Year of Physics 2005 educational outreach project that celebrates the centennial of Albert Einstein’s ‘miraculous year’ of discoveries in 1905.

Teacher Julie Mooney will travel with her winning students to Princeton, N.J., to participate in a treasure hunt on the grounds the Institute for Advanced Study, where a set of prizes is to be revealed fifty years after Einstein’s death in 1955.

The World Year of Physics 2005 marks the 100-year anniversary of three of Einstein’s biggest discoveries, including the Theory of Special Relativity (and the resulting famous equation E=mc2), and is also the 75 th anniversary of the founding of the Institute for Advanced Study.

“We are shocked, so excited, so thrilled,” said Mooney. “I am in awe of Einstein. It is unbelievable that that my students will get to walk on the grounds where he did his work.”

Her students were likewise startled and joyful upon learning they had won the grand prize trip. ‘I’m really excited. It doesn’t seem real,’ said 15-year Danielle Cain.

Seconding this feeling was 15-year old Amanda Burkey. “When I started the experiment, I didn’t think we would win,” she said. “So when I found out I was just in complete shock.”

Mooney and class were among the 1362 teachers and their combined total of over 69,000 students from all 50 states who signed up for the PhysicsQuest project. They were subsequently chosen for the grand prize through a random drawing of the classes that successfully completed the contest.

The PhysicsQuest project is a set of four experiments designed to illustrate basic physics principles including pendulum motion, shapes of bubbles, laser light diffraction, and magnetism. It is organized as a treasure hunt to find the exact spot -- using a map of the Institute for Advanced Study’s 800 acre grounds – and time the prizes are to be revealed.

Mooney has taught math and science for 14 years starting out in Denver, Colorado and then in Iowa, and she hopes to incorporate the background material into her curriculum next year.

“You would not believe how much we are looking forward the trip,” Mooney said. “I’ve never been out East and I don’t think many of my students have been, either.”

About the World Year of Physics:

The World Year of Physics is an international celebration of physics, timed to coincide with the 100th anniversary of Albert Einstein's "miraculous year." In 1905, Einstein revolutionized much of science with three groundbreaking advances: he proved of the existence of the atoms and molecules, he validated the emerging field of quantum mechanics, and he developed the theory of special relativity - which led to the most famous equation ever written, E=mc2.

The United Nations has officially declared 2005 the International Year of Physics, and more than thirty nations are participating in the yearlong celebrations with public lectures, museum exhibits, and educational projects.

About PhysicsQuest project:

PhysicsQuest is funded by a grant from the U.S. Department of Energy Office of Science and sponsored by the American Physical Society. Science Kit & Boreal Laboratories oversaw production and shipment of the kits. Cadmus Communications Corp., of Linthicum, Md., provided a grant for a portion of the PhysicsQuest prizes.

About APS

The American Physical Society is a nonprofit membership organization working to advance and diffuse the knowledge of physics through its outstanding research journals, scientific meetings, and education, outreach, advocacy, and international activities. APS represents over 55,000 members, including physicists in academia, national laboratories, and industry in the United States and throughout the world. Society offices are located in College Park, Maryland (Headquarters), Ridge, New York, and Washington, D.C.