Notre Dame hosts the 2016 NSF REU Physics Olympics

Author: Chontel Syfox


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The annual Physics Olympics, hosted by the Notre Dame Physics Department and the Research Experience for Undergraduates (REU) Program returned to the Jordan Hall of Science this week. The event brings together REU students from Michigan State University, Purdue University, and Notre Dame, who compete to solve physics problems.

This year a total of 49 undergraduate students from Michigan State, Purdue, and Notre Dame partook in the daylong Physics Olympics. Twelve teams consisting of four students from each college competed in three events, under the watchful eyes of graduate and undergraduate Notre Dame students who acted as judges. 

In the Bungee Madness event students were expected to use their knowledge of science to construct miniature bungees, which they then released from the third floor balcony in the Jordan Hall of Science. Each team of students used sandbags and rubber bands to construct a bungee that would travel the farthest distance to the ground without touching it. 

The Raft in Dire Straits event saw students tasked with constructing rafts out of 1 square foot of foil. Each team competed to build a raft, capable of carrying the heaviest load without sinking.

In the Faraday Pickup event students were tasked with creating electromagnets. Each team was provided with two nails, 5 meters of copper wire, 2 meters of tape, and two 1.5 volt batteries, and competed to create an electromagnet that could pick up as many paperclips as possible. 

This year Team Diode won the Physics Olympics.

Now in its 30th year the NSF funded Notre Dame REU program is a ten-week summer program in which rising juniors and seniors work with faculty or conduct their own research, in order to get hands-on experience in science.