2002 U.S. Physics Team

About the Program

Mission Mission
The mission of the U.S. Physics Team Program is to promote and demonstrate academic excellence through preparation for and participation in the International Physics Olympiad.

The U.S. Physics Team will fulfill its mission by achieving the following goals:

  • expand awareness of and participation in the program;
  • provide a meaningful scientific and cultural experience for team members, including opportunities to network and meet new people, learn in intellectual and experiential ways, and gain international exposure; and
  • win medals and compete successfully on an international level.

Measures of Success

Winners There are many ways to measure success. One way is to look at the medals we won and how well our team performs at the International Physics Olympiad.

We have been consistently successful in achieving this goal. Team members have won more than 46 medals in the fifteen years we have participated in the IPhO.

The USA Team was very successful last year in the 31st International Olympiad, held in Anyalya, Turkey:

  • each representative walked away with a medal for a total of 3 gold and 2 silver medals.
  • 3rd ranking out of 63 countries

Another way is to see what immediate impact the program has had on the lives that were touched by it.

'99 team member in Padua labIn an anonymous survey answered by the Team after their summer camp, one student stated: "I enjoyed being with all these smart people who think the way I do." Others commented on "solving interesting problems with interesting people," and "meeting new people with similar interests and spending time with them playing games and talking."

The Physics Olympiads began in 1967 with the first competition in Warsaw, Poland. Initially only Eastern European nations competed, but in the early 1980's western countries began to participate, first through Germany then the U.K., U.S.A. and Canada. The IPhOs now attract teams from all over the globe.

In 1986 under the direction of the AAPT Executive Officer, Jack Wilson, AAPT organized for the first time the United States Physics Team. The team was made up of 20 talented high school physics students who had been nominated by their teachers. Following a rigorous and intense program in the physics department of the University of Maryland, five students were selected to represent the U.S. Team in London. The United States team brought home three Bronze Medals--the most medals any team had ever won in their first competition. Since that time, the United States team has consistently ranked near the top ten of all nations.

Selection Process
The selection process begins in early January of each year when high school teachers nominate their best students - usually about 1100 highly qualified students are eligible to take a national exam. The 200 top scorers on this test then advance to the next round of competition. Results from second round of testing are used to select the final 24 members of the U.S. Physics Team.

SelectionThese 24 students attend a training camp where they will engage in eight days of intense studying, testing and problem solving. At the end of that training camp, five students will be selected for the "Traveling Team." The Traveling Team will return for an extra 3 days of intense work in the laboratory before they are ready for the International Event.

SelectionThe training camp experience is immensely valuable for the participants. The instruction provides an introduction to university style teaching and equipment. Students become familiar with aspects of first year university curricula in physics which in turn accelerates their studies during their remaining time in high school.

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