June 2024

UBC Physics Olympics


For more than 40 years, the Departments of Physics and Astronomy and Department of Curriculum and Pedagogy at UBC have been collaborating in hostingt UBC Physics Olympics – the largest hands-on physics team competition in North America if not worldwide. On a March Saturday morning, teams from high schools across British Columbia compete for medals in 6 science events, and the school of the team with the highest overall score will receive a trophy and other awards. Since 2010, I have been a member of the Physics Olympics organizing committee and I have been representing the Department of Curriculum and Pedagogy since 2012. In 2018, we celebrated 40th UBC Physics Olympics with more than 700 students in attendance.

And this is an example from 2016. 38th UBC Physics Olympics was held on Saturday March 5, 2016. Here are 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  Physics Olympics Organizing Committee

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