Physics & Astronomy Department

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Girl Watching GeoDome Presentation

Connecting With Our Community

Faculty and Students in the Department of Physics & Astronomy at UMD are involved in many outreach projects.  

Our main outreach programs include the Marshall W. Alworth Planetarium, the Charles L. Matsch GeoDome Theater, the Soudan Underground Physics Lab Open Day, and the Physics Olympiad. 

Several of our faculty judge at the Minnesota State Science Fair and we frequently send faculty and students out to visit area K-12 schools. We are also involved with Swenson College's Science and Engineering Day and the Congdon Park School Spooktacular Science Night. 

Physics Olympiad

What is a Physics Olympiad?

Physics Olympiads are competitions in Physics for high-school students. The Olympiad competitions are held regularly in many countries and are conducted at city, regional, state, country, and even international levels. For example, each year the American Association of Physics Teachers and the American Institute of Physics sponsor a competition for high school students to represent the United States at the international level. The mission of these Physics competitions is to promote and demonstrate academic excellence and to provide intellectual stimulation for students interested in physical sciences. It is to encourage excellence in physics education and to reward outstanding physics students.   Another format of high-school physics competitions is the Young Physicists Tournaments (YPT).

The competitions consist of two parts: a theoretical part that involves solving problems (commonly three problems in the areas of physics taught in schools) and an experimental part that requires setting up creative experiments and performing measurements. The time for each part is several hours. 

Though the students compete individually, scoring is often kept for the teams, as teams of students from the same school (state, country, etc.) often train together for these events. In Duluth Olympiads, we allow teamwork in the experimental part of the competition. 

One of the organizers is Vitaly Vanchurin, an Assistant Professor in UMD’s Physics & Astronomy Department.  “The problems are actually fun and interesting and not like those on a test,” said Vitaly. “We want to intellectually challenge people and interest them in pursuing physics, too.”

Competitors will have three hours to complete both divisions before turning in their answers to the judges.

How do I become an Olympian?

Talk to your Science teacher or contact Sergei Katsev or Vitaly Vanchurin. Participation is free and we will send announcements about upcoming competitions. In most cases, a Physics teacher will put together a team, but we can also help in coordinating, helping you train, and help you get in touch with like-minded students in the area.

Examples of the types of brain teasers that will be presented to competitors can be found on-line. There is no cost to participate and the event is open to high school and college students. Pre-registration is appreciated if you are part of a group that plans to attend. To register and for more information, contact Vitaly Vanchurin at vvanchur@d.umn.edu.