The IYPT - an excellent Competition
In early summer 1997 fifteen student teams from 11 nations came together for a physics competition at Eger (Czech Republic) . For one week they were living proof that this is not only a physics competition but also a highly effective forum for international understanding.
Germany has taken part in the tournament for three consecutive years. The participating students were for the most part students from "Gymnasien" (high school for medium to high achievers, grammar schools) from the state of Baden-Wuerttemberg.
The rules in the better known Physics Olympics lay down that individual students solve the problems set in an exam contest, which implies that a lot of the thinking has already been done beforehand. In this scientific contest, which is a very lively affair, the students compete in teams. The teams present and defend their possible solutions to 17 complex scientific projects, which they have spent months researching both through conducting experiments and theoretically. The presentation takes place before the critical eyes of an international jury.
All sources of information are permitted: intensive literature research in university libraries, interviews with experts at colleges, universities and business. It is the stated objective of the organising body, to make the students think for themselves thus leading them to work and research independently.
In the final round ("Physics Fights" = P.F.) 3 teams of 5 students respectively compete against each other. The language of communication is English. The rules say that the team of the opponents challenge the team of the "reporters" by demanding a report about issue nr 5 "Blue Blood", for example. The reporters may deny the challenge only twice without losing points. After the report is finished it is up to the opposing team to expose failures and weak points in the solution, suggested by the reporters. At this point the opponents should not disclose their own investigation results. Finally a third team, the "reviewers" are to judge how well the opponents and the reporters have presented themselves and their solutions. In a P.F. each of the three teams takes over the roles of opponents, reporters or reviewers once. This type of competition calls for a degree of creativity, commitment, communication skills hardly to be found in similar competitions. In the debates which are conducted in an exciting and passionate atmosphere the teams meet each other with a notable degree of openness and fairness. Up to now German students have taken part in this competition three times. Once a German team were the overall winners, and once they were runners-up. Germany will play host to the 11th tournament of young physicists. Students interested in physics are invited to particate in this tournament which is sponsored by German Physcal Society (Deutsche Physikalische Gesellschaft).
Here are some tasks which had to be solved at the 10th tournament of physics.
Floatation A piece of chocolate, which is dropped into a glass of soda water, periodically sinks and goes back to the surface. Investigate the dependence of the period of these oscillations on various parameters.
The scientific projects appeal to a variety of different talents: Students with a theoretical drift as well as students who enjoy conducting experiments, students who have a general knowledge and students who are specialists in their fields. Often the participants do not come up with a solution but with an alternative which corresponds to their academic standard and their possibilities.
They select theoretical models, plan and conduct experiments, form algorhythms that lead to the solution, find and explain approximate solutions and simplifications.
At each stage of the tournament there is a clear analogy between the present activities and later creative, scientific or technical investigative work:
Intensive library research, interviews with experts from colleges, universities and industry, scientific debates as conducted in seminars. Research departments are looking for this kind of "problem solvers".
The former president of German Physical Society , Prof. Herwig Schopper, attended the whole tournament as a critical observer and as a member of the jury. In his talk to the assmembly he emphasized the outstanding importance of the tournament of young physicists:
To become a successful physicist:
He arrived at the notable conclusion:
"Tournament is an excellent enterprise to learn these qualities".
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