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From 1986 to 2019, the United States Teams have brought home: 66 Gold Medals, 48 Silver Medals, 29 Bronze Medals, and 11 Honorable Mentions. — AAPT.ORG

Meet the Team

Photo of William Li

William Li

Tampa, FL

C Leon King HS

Grade: Junior


Reading, cello, swimming, teaching, trying to cook


Mu Alpha Theta, Science Competition Club, Florida Student Association of Mathematics, Orchestra, Swim Team


USAJMO (2017), USAMO (2019), USACO gold, USNCO, USAMTS silver (2018, 2019), HMMT, PUMaC, ARML, CMIMC


In third grade, I became fascinated with whales. At my local library, I hunted for books on cool facts about the orca, searched for accounts of bottlenose dolphins (which is still my favorite animal), and made my own charts on the differences between toothed whales and baleen whales.

Sadly, many of the books I read had lengthy sections devoted to detailing the crimes of people on these beautiful animals. My 7-year-old self took action to protect whales against the dangers of humanity. I picked up potentially ocean-polluting plastic bags off the Walmart parking lot while my parents patiently (or not so patiently) waited, periodically turned off all the lights in our home to reduce ocean-warming carbon dioxide emissions, and led a family-wide boycott against dolphin-endangering tuna fishing companies.

To the dismay of 8-year-old me, my local library’s collection of literature on whales was exhausted by mid-fourth grade, and my obsession faded by the end of the school year. My quest for justice also slowly trickled away. By the time I finished elementary school, I even found myself waiting for people to leave the room before I turned off the lights.

I was fortunate to attend middle school with a group of very bright math students. I was amazed by their knack for computation and insight into what I saw as impossible problems. Math was, much more so than whales, abundant in both literature and community. My life grew to be centered around math competitions and remained that way through middle school and much of high school.

The F=ma exam, offered by our school’s science club, introduced me to physics. I took the test in ninth grade and found physics to be challenging in a far more frustrating way than math. Physics took away much of the abstract, so a failure to answer the problem felt more like a failure to properly understand the world. It was much more embarrassing to admit to myself that I had no idea how a hula hoop worked than that I was unable to prove the Pythagorean theorem. I took my first real physics class in the second semester of tenth grade and signed up for the AP Physics 1 and 2 exams. While studying for these, I began to appreciate the sheer breadth and wonder of physics.

Over the summer before eleventh grade, I learned the basics of calculus with MIT’s OCW class. I then read and worked through much of Morin Mechanics and Purcell/Morin Electricity and Magnetism (only opening Halliday and Resnick later when PhysicsWOOT recommended it). David Morin’s books showed me that fun, challenging problems are not restricted to mathematics and hooked me to the subject. PhysicsWOOT and, later, Walter Lewin’s lectures covered some gaps in my knowledge before the F=ma and USAPhO.

I would like to thank Mr. Davison, my physics teacher, and Mrs. Cline, our science club sponsor, for always being encouraging and personable. I’m also grateful to my teachers, parents, and friends for being incredibly supportive. I look forward to meeting everybody at camp.

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For more details and information about the U.S. Physics Team, please contact AAPT's Programs department at 301-209-3340 or programs@aapt.org