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Record Attendance at the Physics Olympiad in Lisbon

August 1st, 2018
Record Attendance at the Physics Olympiad in Lisbon

LTR: Tim Pokart, David Ventzke, Wilhelm Holfeld, Jule Schrepfer, Pascal Reeck

Two silver and one bronze medal for the 5 member German team.

About 400 students from 86 countries took part in the 49th International Physics Olympiad in Lisbon, Portugal, where they solved tricky theoretical and practical physics problems. This is a new record attendance for the competition. The five German Olympic athletes did not achieve the level of performance they had demonstrated in the national selection competition. With two silver and one bronze medal as well as two certificates of recognition, the team nevertheless achieved 23rd place and came home with a very respectable result and with many new impressions.

The International Physics Olympiad - IPhO for short - brings together the best young physics talents from the participating countries. They prove their skills in physics and try to win a coveted Olympic medal. The 49th IPhO took place from July 21st – 29th, 2018 in Lisbon, Portugal, and was attended by 396 students from 86 countries. The competition was organized by the Portuguese Ministry of Education and the Portuguese Physics Society. In addition to the academic program, the hosts introduced the delegates to the many facets of the country and its people.

The German national team consisted of:
- Wilhelm Holfeld (Martin-Andersen-Nexö-Gymnasium, Dresden)
- Tim Pokart (Max-Steenbeck-Gymnasium, Cottbus)
- Pascal Reeck (Wilhelm-Ostwald-Gymnasium, Leipzig)
- Jule Schrepfer (Goetheschule, Ilmenau)
- David Ventzke (Wilhelm-Ostwald-Gymnasium, Leipzig)

These five secured a position in the competition from 930 students nationwide at the four-stage Physics Olympiad in Germany and were then prepped for the competition. They were accompanied to Lisbon by Dr. Stefan Petersen from the Leibniz Institute for Science and Mathematics Education at Kiel University, who is responsible for the selection and training of the team, and two former IPhO participants Bastian Hacker (MPQ Garching) and Philipp Schmitt (University of Copenhagen).

The central element of the IPhO were the two (one experimental and one theoretical) five-hour physics exams. Here, the organizers selected current topics, such as the detection of gravitational waves, studies on neutrinos in particle experiments and physics in blood circulation and tumor growth, and integrated them into theoretical tasks. The experimental exam also consisted of exciting contents such as electronic circuits on paper and viscoelastic strains. Unfortunately, the experiments were so extensive that none of the participants were able to answer all the questions in depth during the exam. Apart from this, however, the tasks were excellently prepared, so that there were no substantial changes to the tasks among the heads of delegations during the preparatory discussion.

Unfortunately, the German team members did not perform as well as at the Physics Olympics in Germany and in the preparatory training in the exams. Some of the tasks were very difficult nuts to crack.

At the IPhO closing ceremony, both Pascal Reeck and David Ventzke received a silver medal for their achievements. As the best silver medalist, Pascal, who was already a member of the German IPhO team last year, just missed out on a gold medal. A bronze medal went to Wilhelm Holfeld and both Tim Pokart and Jule Schrepfer won an Honorable Mention, the fourth prize category after the medals.

In the unofficial country ranking by points, the German team is ranked 23rd and is thus almost among the top twenty-five percent of the participating nations. The most successful participating countries and also the most successful students again came from Asia.

The IPhO in Portugal was an exciting experience for the German team. The organizers deserve great praise for the smooth organization of the competition and the diverse supporting program.

The team of the Physics Olympiad in Germany would like to thank all supporters of the competition for a very good year of competition and is already looking forward to the 50th International Physics Olympiad, which will take place in Tel Aviv, Israel, in July 2019.

Dr. Stefan Petersen
IPN, Olshausenstrasse 62
24098 Kiel
Tel.    +49 (0)431 / 880-5120
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