2012 team

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The Olympiad is a nine-day international competition among pre-university students from more than 60 nations. — AAPT.ORG

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Team Facts & News

In 1986, under the direction of the AAPT Executive Officer, Jack Wilson, the American Association of Physics Teachers (AAPT) organized the United States Physics Team for the first time. — AAPT.ORG

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Photo of Felipe Hernandez

Felipe Hernandez

Natchitoches, LA

Louisiana School for Math Science Arts

Grade: Senior


Ultimate, Tetris, Dinosaur Comics


Catholic Club, Science Bowl


Research Science Institute


My parents had a big influence on my love for physics. I would often come home to see my dad using a butter knife to disturb a slow stream of water and observe various effects. My mom, who majored in electrical engineering, showed me some circuits, like one that makes an LED flash periodically (I am still trying to understand how it works!). It was clear to me that the world around me was fascinating and that I knew almost nothing about it, so I wanted to learn more.

Some of my first explorations into the natural world were through my middle school science fair projects. In my first project, I timed a ball rolling down a ramp at different angles. I compared the results with theory and against a simple simulation that I wrote. It was a simple experiment, but I was impressed that simple mathematical expressions could predict the outcome of a real event. The projects in the following years explored the nature of light and sound. From these experiences, I realized that physics can make predictions about a wide range of phenomena.

Other valuable learning experiences I have enjoyed were the simulations that I have programmed. After realizing that building experimental set-ups can be difficult and restraining, and theoretical results are sometimes hard to visualize, I turned to making simulations. An early simulation I wrote simulated the motion of planets under the influence of gravity. Gradually, my numerical work increased some in complexity; my most recent simulation can model incompressible fluids. I really enjoy seeing the results that my programs produce, and I think that they help me gain some intuition about various physical principles such as conservation of momentum.

The bit of intuition that I had gained and my curiosity helped me really enjoy the physics class that I took my junior year. In that class, I learned that the simple equations and ideas that govern a ball rolling down a ramp can be extended to more complex situations, like pendulums and vibrating strings. After my introductory physics class, I continued to learn physics both on my own and through more classes from my teacher, Dr. Robert Dalling.

I am excited that I was invited to the 2012 Physics Camp. Afterwards, I will enroll at MIT in the fall, where I expect to find exciting opportunities to continue my studies.

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