Department of Physics & Astronomy

2014 High School Physics Contest

    The 38th Annual University of Alabama High School Physics Contest will be held on Tuesday, February 18, 2014 at the Bryant Conference Center on the campus of the University of Alabama. This event is open to all high schools and usually attracts schools from surrounding states as well as many from Alabama.   It consists not only of physics competitions but also of a program for teachers, an open house on research in physics, a physics show, and informal opportunities to experience campus life at The University of Alabama. More details, pictures, and a movie clip may be seen here.

    Weather forced cancellation of our original date of January 31 - availability of large enough rooms for the competition gave us only February 18 as an alternative. If you already registered teams for the original date, please inform ( whether there are any changes for the new date.

    The top two finishers in the written exam who choose to attend the University of Alabama will receive four-year in-state tuition scholarships. Books, trophies, plaques, and medals will be awarded to the top individual and team finishers.  Students who do well in the competition will be invited to apply to the E. Scott Barr scholarship program, which awards generous scholarships to students majoring in physics.  This year, the competition events are in the Bryant Conference Center, while the physics show and awards ceremony are in their usual place in the Ferguson Center. The program is as follows:

     8:00- 8:30 AM Registration (Bryant Conference Center)
    8:30- 9:00 Greetings and Instructions (Sellers Auditorium)
    9:00-10:15 Written Exam (Sellers Auditorium) student version and version with solutions 9:15-10:00 Teachers' Program (Mobile Room) 10:30-11:45 Ciphering Exam (Sellers Auditorium) Last year's questions and solutions 11:45- 1:00 PM Lunch on your own 1:00- 2:00 Open House (Gallalee Hall) 2:15- 3:00 Physics Show (Ferguson Center Theater) 3:00- 3:30 Awards Ceremony (Ferguson Center Theater)

    Contest Rules

    • The use of calculators is not allowed on the written exam.  Calculations on the written examination will involve simple numbers so far as feasible and trigonometric tables for commonly used angles will be provided.   The use of calculators is allowed for the ciphering competition provided any stored formulas are not used.
    • Students having tattoos of physics formulas will be allowed to participate only if the tattoos are completely covered by clothing.  T-shirts or other clothing bearing formulas are not allowed.
    • A school can enter any number of students in the written exam and (subject to space availability) any number of teams in the ciphering competition.
    • Ciphering teams have four members, whose names must be sent in on the registration form. Last-minute changes may be faxed to 205-348-5051 or emailed to Karen Lynn ( no later than noon Thursday, January 30. The list of teams will be finalized then -- subsequent changes to team rosters can not be guaranteed. 
    • The ciphering teams are divided into five divisions:
      • Small public high schools
      • Large public high schools
      • Private high schools 
      • Small magnet high schools
      • Large magnet high schools, which includes state math and science schools such as MSMS and ASMS.
    • Joint teams (having members from more than one school) may be formed.  Note that a student may not occupy more than one of the four slots on a team, so if a school does not have four students it must join with another school or compete as a "fun run" team in which a student can compete multiple times, which is scored but ineligible for awards.
    • Team rankings in the ciphering competition will be announced unofficially at the end of the competition and officially at the awards ceremony.
    • Books, trophies, plaques, and medals will be awarded to the top finishers (both individuals and teams).  Recognition will also be extended to all students scoring in the upper 20% on the written examination

    E. Scott Barr Award

    It will be our pleasure to present the E. Scott Barr Teaching Award to an outstanding high school physics teacher during the afternoon awards ceremony.  The winner will receive a plaque and a check.   Nominations for  this award are invited from principals, fellow teachers, parents, and students.  If you would like to nominate someone, please send the nominee’s name and  contact information, along with a supporting statement, to Professor Bill Keel by fax (205-348-5051) or email.

    Contest information and registration forms are mailed out to schools in October of each year. If your school does not receive one or needs a replacement, or for further information, contact
    Ms. Karen Lynn
    Department of Physics and Astronomy
    University of Alabama
    Tuscaloosa, AL 35487-0324 , 205-348-5050

    or save, edit, and email back the email registration form. This is easiest in spreadsheet form. The entry fee was waived starting in in 2010 -- we have arranged to continue this waiver in 2014. There is no entry fee! It will help us plan if you can email us in advance with an estimate of how many students you expect to bring.

    The registration deadline is Monday, January 27, 2014.