Physics Olympics helps students gravitate to science

Justin Turner

Students from local high schools gathered at WKU Saturday, Feb. 20, to participate in the Physics Olympics, an annual competition coordinated by the department of physics and astronomy.

Teams from Bowling Green High School, Greenwood High School, Franklin-Simpson High School and Warren Central High School participated in the Physics Olympics this year.

Greenwood senior Adan Deeb competed in the event for her fourth time Saturday.

“I’ve competed since my freshman year, and it’s been really fun,” Deeb said.

Deeb’s team the Newtonists placed second with two other teams in a three-way tie.

In competition, teams of four face off in a pentathlon of activities and contests that relate to the science of physics. This year’s theme, Exploration, allowed students to apply their knowledge of vectors, momentum and inertia as well as fluid dynamics.

One of the activities included a zipline relay in which students attempted to transport eggs in homemade containers from one end of the zipline to the other as quickly as they could. The teams raced to complete the relay, carefully releasing and catching their load-carrying contraptions in which the eggs swung precariously.

Richard Gelderman, a professor in the physics and astronomy department, has helped put the event together for several years now. He said the participants learn not only about physics but also about how to engage and think critically as a team.

Gelderman’s main focus, however, was in keeping the event as fun as possible for the students. He said he wants the event to impact students by showing them science can be an exciting and engaging activity.

“I really want them to remember that it’s fun,” Gelderman said. “Taking tests is not fun, but doing science is fun.”

WKU students from the physics and astronomy programs helped run the competitions for the high school students.

“They also think that physics is a neat thing,” Gelderman said. “They see why, as a career, this is a fun thing to do, and they are happy to share that.”

Cristen Olson, a teacher from Bowling Green High School, coached her students in this year’s Physics Olympics. She said it is a great opportunity for students who are interested in science.

“It kind of opens that door to students who want to get involved in something like this because it builds up their confidence to do something more advanced,” Olson said.

A team from Bowling Green High School won this year’s competition. Team members Gabby McAllister, Dylan Gelderman and Vaiden Logan will receive a $600 scholarship their freshman year to attend WKU.