SMT Student Competes at Physics Olympiad in Singapore

On 11 to 18 May, I participated in the Asian Physics Olympiad competition, held this year in Singapore. After arriving at about 1 o’clock in the morning Singapore time, we attended the Opening Ceremony on the second day along with teams from all of the other 27 of countries participating this year. Here we had the opportunity to experience a series of wonderful cultural performances from countries all over Asia, including the ‘Urban Water Drum Crew,’ which involved drums, water, and even fire. Later the teams split up to go on heritage tours around Singapore.

The following day was the day of the theory exam. This was a five hour exam with three multi-step problems that were all very challenging, ranging from questions based on the weather at the equator to a derivation of general relativistic effects. The content required for these questions was approximately equivalent to a first year university course in physics, but the problems would have been hard no matter how much theory one had committed to memory. After this first exam we had the following day to rest and recuperate before the experimental exam. During this time we visited the Jurong Bird Park, the Night Safari where we saw lions, elephants, hyenas and tapirs and meerkats among other things, as well as the beautiful Singapore Botanical Gardens.

The experimental exam was also a five hour exam, however this time we were provided with a whole box of apparatus (which seemed to be bought exclusively off the internet) so that we could complete four separate but related experiments and corresponding questions for each, which involved deriving equations to model the setup, taking data and using this to derive values such as the frequency of an ultrasonic standing wave and the refractive index of corn starch.

The experiment was mainly about modelling a diffractive slit experiment with an underwater sound wave, and thus we were provided with a ‘piezoelectric-transducer;’ this was, on the box, however, suspiciously labelled ‘mist maker.’ With the exams over, we spent the rest of the time exploring Singapore and its attractions, including the Universal Studios theme park, the Singapore Art Science museum and the impressive Gardens by the Bay, where we had time to relax, have fun and spend more time with the other teams.

Overall, ‘APhO’ was a fantastic experience. Physics and sightseeing aside, I really enjoyed getting to know the other seven members of the Australian team, and also meeting other students from all over Asia.

Peter Gibson, Year 12 student