Students often learn physics from a purely theoretical perspective. Physics is, after all, a natural science. Many of the most critical advancements in the field are discovered through experimentation. There are not a lot of opportunities for students to explore physics concepts with their own hands. The CaYPT is not just for prospective students of science but also students that wish to pursue post-secondary studies in engineering.
The greatest challenge in the CaYPT is typically not understanding the physics concepts but rather to design and build a versatile and robust experimental apparatus. The competition prompts students to develop the skills that will help them succeed in their future studies.
Physics problems from textbooks focus on reinforcing basic concepts, and theory-based physics competitions go beyond the high school curriculum. Neither could truly motivate students to ask their own questions about the world. The CaYPT takes an entirely different approach. There is no unique solution to the open-ended CaYPT problems. During their research, students will have to make choices about what parameters to explore and what methods to follow. This transforms a physics problem into a string of self-guided learning objectives. Students will not only leave the tournament knowing more physics but also with unrivaled curiosity about the world.
Einstein once said, “Education is what remains after one has forgotten what one has learned in school.” In today’s age of information, one could obtain any fact in a matter of seconds. As a student leaves school, all the facts they memorized will eventually fade. The most valuable thing that a student will learn from a science class is the ability to think scientifically and to use this mindset to solve real-world problems. We often want students to learn to think like a physicist. The best way to learn it is to try to be a young physicist.
We interviewed past CaYPT participants and learned that in most high school physics clubs, the routine activity is solving challenging problems in a competition-like format. Compared to the variety of activities that other school clubs offer, the physics club often has a difficult time attracting students. The CaYPT introduces a new type of activity that the physics club could offer. Students could experiment with the CaYPT problems, discuss possible solutions, and sharing exciting findings. It turns the physics club into a more engaging learning environment.
One effective way to get students interested in the course content is to perform in-class demonstrations. The CaYPT problems offer a perfect opportunity for your school’s science department to build up a collection of fascinating physics demonstrations. Every CaYPT problem demonstrates essential concepts in classical mechanics, electricity and magnetism, thermodynamics, optics, or fluid dynamics.
Having a CaYPT team at your school is the perfect way to bring new ideas into the classroom. The team will seek out technologies that will make them more competitive in the tournament. Through their exploration, they will often find creative ways to use the technologies available to them.
For example, many teams are utilized 3D modeling and 3D printing technology in their experiments. Teams learned to use their phone as a slow-motion camera. The video is then analyzed to get accurate data about the phenomenon in question. Other teams built small scale wind tunnels to study air flows for a fluid dynamics problem. The possibilities are truely endless.
Step 1: Find 3 to 5 interested students.
Step 2: Pick 8 out of the 10 problems that the students like the most (4 from each group/day)
Step 3: Go on YouTube, watch the demonstration videos that the CaYPT committee made about the CaYPT 2020 problems
Step 4: Work with the students to come up with 3 testable scientific questions for each of the 8 problems
Step 5: Guide the students through constructing an experiment for each of the 8 problems.
Step 6: Ask the students to collect some quantitative data to test their hypothesis
Step 7: Guide the students through picking the best way to visualize their data.
Step 8: Ask the students to make a powerpoint presentation that showcases their work for each problem (20-30 pages with 2-3 graphs will be ideal).
Step 9: Go on YouTube, watch the videos that the CaYPT committee filmed at the IYPT to get the students familiar with the structure of the competition
Step 10: Instruct the students to practice presenting in front of an audience. Ask the students as many tough questions as you can about their solution. This will prepare them for the heated discussion during the tournament.
Frequently Asked Questions:
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Rule and Regulations of the CaYPT (includes more details on the structure of CaYPT):