On Saturday, November 17, at 9:00 a.m., the Physics Department at Buffalo State and the Western New York Physics Teachers Alliance (WNYPTA) will host the seventh annual Physics Olympics. Its purpose is to encourage middle- and high-school students to continue their study of science.
"Many young students really love physics, and they enjoy thinking about interesting physics and engineering solutions," said David Henry, associate professor of elementary education and reading. Henry is an expert in teaching science and co-director of the Western New York Physics Teachers Alliance.
"However," Henry continued, "sometimes these students can feel isolated in their schools. This event lets them see that many of their peers share their interest."
Middle- and high-school students will compete in three different timed activities: the Toothpick Tower, the Egg Drop, and the Physics Regatta. The tower will be built out of toothpicks and straight straws, and it must be strong enough to hold about two ounces. "We’re not giving out too many details for this year’s egg drop and the regatta," said Henry. "The events will be timed, so it's important to work fast!"
Students from 18 area schools, including Hutch Tech (Hutchinson Central Technical High School in Buffalo), Nardin Academy, and the Williamsville Central School District, will take part. Buffalo State junior Steve Tarasec and first-year students Bridget Torsey and Hope Genco, recipients of the Robert A. and Dorothy Stender Sweet Physics Scholarships, will be on hand to answer questions about any of Buffalo State’s physics programs. The Sweet scholarship provides $2,500 a year, and is renewable for four years.
Schools often have only one physics teacher. WNYPTA provides an opportunity for them to meet and share challenges and solutions. Buffalo State’s physics programs include a well-regarded physics education program, and its faculty can provide expert professional development to high-school physics teachers.
"We want to show students who are interested in science that it can be a lot of fun," said Michael De Marco, professor and chair of physics at Buffalo State. "And we want to show them that we have a great program right here, with plenty of scholarship money available, along with professors teaching and mentoring undergraduate students."