Science meets marshmallows at high school physics contest


March 06, 2001|By Debra Taylor Young | Debra Taylor Young,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

THE COMPETITION was intense Saturday morning at the 9th annual Central Maryland Physics Olympics at Liberty High School.

Seventeen Maryland high schools participated. Students were required to solve problems and build devices from materials supplied on site, with no advance preparation.

The contest featured six events, each lasting 30 minutes:

The Egg Drop - teams had to devise a way to drop an egg from a height of 10 to 12 feet without breaking it. Past olympics at Liberty yielded 72 consecutive unsuccessful drops.

Space Mountain - teams sought to build the tallest free-standing tower from materials such as raw spaghetti and marshmallows. The tower had to stand unsupported for at least 10 seconds.

Mission to Mars - teams tried to build a device with the slowest descent down an inclined track.

Lost in Space - teams tried to make a helium-filled balloon float to the ceiling in exactly three minutes.

Total Recall - teams had to calculate answers to problems that dealt with very large or very small quantities, such as how many pingpong balls would be required to fill an Olympic-size swimming pool?

Armageddon Projectile Device - teams had to build a projectile device from materials provided.

Tim Durkin, a physics teacher at Liberty and event coordinator, had three teams representing the school.

The schedule moved the participants quickly from one event to the next. At 1 p.m., an informal awards ceremony was held. Durkin presented the awards and took suggestions from the judges on ways to improve next year's events.

He began the ceremony by quipping that the engineers of NASA could sleep well that night: Their jobs were not in danger.

The team closest to garnering 1,500 points - the most possible - was Georgetown Preparatory School's Team 1 from Montgomery County, with 1,360. Northwest High School's Team 2, also from Montgomery County, was second with 1,218, and Francis Scott Key's Team 3, from Carroll County, ranked third with 1,172.

Liberty's best score was achieved by Team 2, which ranked 20th of the 33 teams.

Team 2 consisted of Angie Lee, 16; Stephanie Wright, 17; Aimie Greenberg, 16; Erika Kast, 16; and Kristen Trumpler, 17.

David Ulmar of the Maryland Space Business Roundtable was on hand to present the awards. The MSBR sponsored the event, and operates an educational outreach program to promote interest in engineering, especially space program-related study.

Liberty craft fair

Liberty High School's PTSA is sponsoring a craft fair from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday at the school on Bartholow Road.

More than 150 craft vendors will be on hand.

Admission is $1 for those older than age 16.

Information: Debbie Geiger, 410-795-3880.

Sykesville history walk

Sykesville Spring History Walk will be held from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. March 18, starting from Gate House Museum off History on Cooper Drive.

Three guided walking tours will be offered. The first, led by Johnny Johnsson, is a hike to the Springfield copper mines on the Fairhaven property. Johnsson is a mining engineer and head of the Soldier's Delight mining exhibit in Baltimore County.

A tour of the Warfield Complex will be led by Barbara Lilly.

The third tour will be led by Dorothy Schafer, a trustee of Old Trinity Cemetery. Schafer will lead a tour of Springfield cemetery and church.

No fee will be charged for the event, but donations will be accepted. According to Jim Purman, curator and archivist at Gate House Museum, proceeds will be divided between the two sponsoring organizations: Friends of Old Trinity Cemetery and Sykesville Historic District Commission. Purman said these are the only groups in Sykesville devoted to historic preservation.

Information: 410-549-5150.

Debra Taylor Young's Southeast neighborhood column appears each Tuesday in the Carroll County edition of The Sun.

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