*This is the first article of what will be a series of articles on the Korea Young Physicists’ Tournament (KYPT).
When one thinks of a physics competition, one might think of a big crowd of students sitting at their own desks, quickly moving their pencils. Only a couple of months ago, I would have thought the same thing. The described style of a competition is known as an Olympiad, where students take a written test, competing for the best score on that one test. In some cases, high performing students may move on to the next step in the competition system. Recently, I discovered the International Young Physicists’ Tournament (IYPT) while surfing the Internet, and was intrigued right away. The IYPT is one of the world’s most renowned physics competitions. In between July and August, the 17 problems for the IYPT are released for the public to see. These problems are research problems that do not have a concrete solution, hence they are released by the host many months prior to the actual tournament. Students make teams of four to five to enter the tournament. A team of students would put their heads together to come up with a theoretical model to the problem, and attempt to confirm that theory through experiments. Additionally, the IYPT has a preliminary round in Korea - the Korea Young Physicists’ Tournament (KYPT).
[The banner for the IYPT.
Photo Courtesy of the International
Young Physicists’ Tournament. http://iypt.org/Home]
|[Photos from debate in the 2012 IYPT Finals in Germany. Photos Courtesy of YouTube. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=N3Nryd-j3xc]
In the fall, I made the decision to enter the KYPT. After some research on physics-related competitions that I could enter, I concluded that the KYPT was unique in a number of ways. First, it was a team competition where teamwork and communication was an integral part to success. These high-level problems could only be tackled through communication with teammates, with everyone contributing to the solution of the problem. The process of reviewing solutions, pointing out weaknesses, and revising them to make the solution better for further improvement came to me as extremely appealing. Second, it was a competition done in the format of a debate. Outside of my own teammates, I was able to look at the unique approaches and solutions that fellow physicists from other schools have to present. I felt that these unique aspects would all in all contribute to my growth as a student and person. As someone highly interested in science & engineering fields, I felt that the KYPT and its scientific processes would be fun and good experience for me later on. Also, the KYPT problems also put a lot of focus on the process of problem solving - something I had great admiration for. Studying to devise theories for a certain problems, planning and carrying out experiments, and connecting the theories with experimental data to make conclusions all come together to complete the process of problem solving. The problem solving process itself was an exquisite and valuable experience. I was thankful to have friends willing to dive into this together with me.
A month or two ago, with three months left until the tournament, I began to tackle the actual problems together with my friends. The first thing we did as a team was decide which team member would undertake what problems; each person took two to three problems out of fourteen. After that, we tried to come up with a theory to solve each of our problems, using online resources and research papers. The next part, which was planning our actual experiments, proved to be more difficult. Buying the essential materials, building the necessary equipment, and executing the actual experiment proved to be among the number of steps that were challenging. Quite frequently, things would not go as planned, and we would all have to go back to the drawing board. It took quite a while to go through the process of trial and error. Although we are currently done with writing our final reports, preparation is far from over. We will continue to refine our theory and experiments before the actual competition, and begin to practice for the actual debate.
|[Set-up for one of my experiments. Photo Courtesy of Jaehong Min.]
By conducting experiments and writing the final report that we had to turn in, we managed to get a taste of what it was truly like to solve such intricate problems. The remaining steps of preparation and competition will be even more difficult, but I am glad nevertheless that I got the chance to make such an endeavor. I have a feeling that my team and I will be able to pull through in the end, and that this journey will contribute to our growth as students; sparking our curiosity and passion for physics and the world.
Korea International School
Jaehong Min firstname.lastname@example.org
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