The 41st Annual University of Alabama High School Physics Contest will be held on Friday, January 27, 2017 at the Ferguson 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, a career panel for students with speakers from industry, government, and universities, a physics show, and informal opportunities to experience campus life at The University of Alabama. For more information, check out our Contest Details page.

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. The program is as follows:

8:00-8:30am: Registration (Ferguson Center Ballroom)

8:30-9:00am: Greetings and Instructions (Ballroom)

9:00-10:15am: Written Exam (Ferguson Center Ballroom) sample, student version and version with solutions

9:15-10:00am: Teachers’ Program

10:30-11:45am: Ciphering Exam (Ballroom) Last year’s questions and solutions

11:45am-1:00pm: Lunch on your own

1:00- 2:15pm: Career Panel (Ferguson Center Ballroom)

2:15- 3:00pm: Physics Show (Ferguson Center Theater)

3:00- 3:30pm: 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 emailed to Karen Lynn ( no later than noon Thursday, January 26. 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, needs a replacement, or wants further information, contact Karen Lynn:

Department of Physics and Astronomy
Box 870324
University of Alabama
Tuscaloosa, AL 35487-0324
(205) 348-5050

You can also save, edit, and email 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 2017. 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 23, 2017.