Physics students at the University of Winnipeg won silver and bronze medals at the international University Physics Competition.
Three U of W teams participated in the competition, and two of those teams placed second and third, putting them in the top 18% and 25% respectively of the 121 teams hailing from the United States, China, the Middle East, and India. Overall, that means there can be more than one team in first, second, and third place.
Fourth-year physics majors with honours Nils Deppe, Jared Enns, and Nick Reid formed the silver medal team. Veronica Fieldhouse, Sarah Campbell, and Steven Casson made up the bronze medal team. The third team consisted of Gabriel Chernitsky, Allison Kolly, and Dean Mikluk, who were given the title of accomplished competitor.
The University Physics Competition is a 48-hour competition that started on Nov. 15 at 7 p.m. and ended on Nov. 17 at 7 p.m. Teams stayed at their home universities to compete. Every year, there are two open-ended physics questions for each team to choose from to try to answer in the form of a short research paper. Once those questions were up on the UPC website, the teams got to work. They were able to use any source of information available to them, either online or in the library. The only thing they couldn’t do was consult another person outside their team.
"The goal was to get a space probe into orbit around Jupiter by using one of Jupiter’s moons to slow you down, so that you use less fuel to actually slow down the spacecraft. The idea is to see how much fuel you could save," Deppe said of one of the two problems.
"Our problem was we were given a planet that was found in a habitable zone — that means there’s liquid water on the surface — and given that there is a four-legged animal on this planet, what do you think this animal would look like?" Fieldhouse provided the second problem.
The three U of W teams did their research on campus but in separate rooms as to not break the rules.
"We did talk on occasion, but we didn’t even find out who was doing what problem. We wanted to keep it separate because it’s part of the rules," Enns said. "We were secluded in our office, and we got maybe three to four hours of sleep each night."
Deppe said it was amazing to place considering how wide in scope the competition was.
"You’re competing against teams from Toronto, India, Beijing," Deppe said.
"It was our first time entering in a competition like this. We went in wanting to have fun," Fieldhouse said.