March 2016

38th UBC Physics Olympics


On March 5th, 2016 we held a 38th UBC Physics Olympics. It was a very successful event. I would like to share a letter I have written to the Physics Teachers who came with their teams to participate in the event. I think the letters speaks to why physics outreach matters so much.

Dear BC Physics Teachers:

On behalf of the Organizing Committee of 2016 38th UBC Physics Olympics I would like to express our BIG thanks to each and every one of you. If not for your support of student enthusiasm for physics, your dedication and collaboration with us, this event would not have happened! As far as I know it is the biggest hands-on collaborative physics outreach event in North America! And it has been going on for 38 years!!!

I also would like to express special thanks to Theresa Liao, Thomas Mattison, Andrzej Kotlicki, Mike Hasinoff, Jaymie Mathews,  Joss Ives, Valery Milner, Aaron Boley, Joerg Rottler, and all the amazing volunteers who invested so much time and effort into the event. I cannot list all of the people here, but ALL of their contributions are very much valued and appreciated.

We are also grateful to the Department of Physics and Astronomy (UBC Faculty of Science) and the Department of Curriculum and Pedagogy (UBC Faculty of Education) for their continuous support of the event! The event would not have happened if not for our continuous collaboration!

A few interesting numbers for you about the day. We had:

1 beautiful trophy and 1 special event for teachers

2 Faculties and 2 departments collaborated on the event!

2 Media Outlets came to talk with the students and teachers: Ming Pao newspaper from Richmond and CBC.

6 heats (each one accommodated up to 11 teams)

6 solid walnut plaques for the best overall performance

6+1 Quizzics events (including the final Quizzics)

9 hour-long event (8+ am – 5+ pm)

15 teacher-candidates who brought their teams and who dropped by to watch the event!

20+ family members of the teachers (kids, spouses – thank you!)

38 years of Physics Olympics!

50+ parents, siblings, grandparents and friends who came to support their teams!

59 participating teams from all over BC!

70+ volunteers from the Department of Physics and Astronomy and the Department of Curriculum and Pedagogy

90 medals (15 medals per heat)

100+ pre-builds that the teams brought with them

150+ books, apparatus, materials that were given even to physics teachers

571 students (9.81 students per team on average)

1000+ volunteer-hours spent on the event (a very rough Fermi estimate)

1000s of laughs and an uncountable amount of physics fun!

The photos I took: UBC 38th Ohysics Olympics photos  Theresa will have more photos and she will post them on the UBC Physics Olympics Web site:

MANY THANKS to all of you for coming. Please keep in touch and if you have great ideas about possible collaboration in physics outreach and physics education research, or improvements to the Physics Olympics please let us know.

Sincerely, a very happy UBC 38th Physics Olympics Organizing Committee

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