Students compete using physics skills

YOUNGSTOWN – Whether dropping eggs, hurling ping pong balls, or racing with mousetrap vehicles, local junior and senior high school students used their science skills to compete at the annual Physics Olympics at Youngstown State University.

Cynthia Smotzer, coordinator of the Physics Olympics, said this was the 36th year for the event, which brings in teams from Trumbull, Mahoning and Columbiana counties as well as teams from western Pennsylvania. This year, 19 schools took part.

“There are 12 different events the students can prepare for,” she said.

Smotzer said the egg drop is the final and most popular event. Students try to protect their egg from breaking after it is dropped from a tall platform. Other contests are quiz show, flying machine, mousetrap racer and ping pong ball launch.

Champion High School marked its first time at the competition.

Terri Rulick, a physics teacher at Champion, said, “We came to see what was going on so we could be more competitive in the future.” Her students competed in bridge breaking, quiz bowl and mouse trap race events.

Tessa Butcher, a CHS junior, said, “We are seeing what takes place so we have a feel for what to prepare for. Our teacher wanted us to try something new.”

Cassie Hatt, a CHS junior, said she believed it would be a fun competition to attend.

“We wanted to learn more about it,” she said.

Harding High School returned to the event after a few years absence. Violet Burd, a junior at Harding, said the team did well on the catapult and egg drop.

“This is the first time the competed in three years since many students were also involved with the robotics team and the regional competitions fell on the same weekend as the Physics Olympics,” Burd said.

Trumbull Career and Technical Center physics teacher Alaine Franklin and engineering teacher Terri Fleming said they have brought a team to the event for the past seven years.

“We entered the ping pong ball launcher, egg drop, and mystery question,” said Franklin, noting the event focuses on science and problem solving utilizing what has been learned in class.

Mineral Ridge High School brought a team led by teacher Scott Yeagley. Yeagley said the team has attended for the past three years

“We did OK this year. I only had so many students in my physics class who could attend. We did well in the egg drop,” he said.

bcoupland@tribtoday.com