Did you see the leagues of excited teenagers on campus last weekend? High school students from as far as Penticton flocked to UBC for the 39th annual UBC Physics Olympics. As you can probably imagine, it was a nerd fest.
Almost 70 teams of five students competed in a variety of events designed to test their knowledge of all things physics. From designing an elastic-powered aircraft in the “elastomer-powered aircraft,” to emulating the great 20th century physicist Enrico Fermi’s talent for estimating things within a magnitude of 10, competitors had to think on their feet and work as a team to win the coveted trophy.
Of the six events, the most entertaining to watch were the coin separator event, aircraft event and the famous “Quizzics!” Both the coin separator and aircraft events required teams to build and bring their contraptions. For the coin separation, the task was simple — make a device that, using only gravitational and potential energy, can sort Canadian coins, US coins and wooden disks.
This challenge led to many large and precarious-looking gizmos. Students could be seen lifting and carefully carrying them around Hennings, making last-minute adjustments with glue guns and screwdrivers. Most teams opted to use a lever at first to distinguish wooden disks from actual coins, and then use different sized hole openings to separate Canadian from American currency.