Shrewsbury School was honoured to represent the UK in the 25th International Young Physicists' Tournament which was hosted by Germany and took place in Bad Saulgau, a thermal spa town two hours south of Stuttgart. The competition ran for a week at the end of July and involved presenting and defending solutions to challenging open-ended research problems that had been set back in September 2011. We took an able but young team (four lower and one upper sixth formers) to compete against 27 other nations, many of whom have extensive and nationally supported selection and training regimes, so we knew this would be a tough challenge and so it proved.
The team of Alex Facey (captain), Ratanon Suemanothom, Ed Elcock, James Brent and Alistair Fisher were superb ambassadors for the School and learnt a great deal from the experience. The lower sixth formers are particularly keen, having seen the high standards set by teams from countries such as Korea (overall winners), Singapore and Iran, to try to win the right to represent the UK again next year in Chinese Taipei. However, to make a real impression on the competition and to challenge for medals we will need to find much more time to focus on the preparation (this year it mainly took place during societies' hour when students did not have other commitments such as debating, sport or music ...). The team improved throughout the competition, finishing strongly, and in the end they were ranked 20th out of 28 nations (in contact with the pack chasing the top half of the field). There is no doubt that the team members found this a stimulating and inspiring experience, as did we! Even after the competition ended the New Zealanders and the Swedes decided to have an extra round at 1 am in the Stuttgart Youth Hostel! It is great to see so many young people excited about Physics.
The IYPT is not only about the physics competition, it is a truly international event with a number of exciting cultural visits, and this year these focused on the automotive industry that began with Daimler's invention of the car at the end of the 19th century. We visited the Daimler museum in Stuttgart and the Daimler Factory where the new V engines for Mercedes Benz are being produced. We also visited the FZ research facility where we had the opportunity to enter a 3D virtual reality projection of a new engine. The Zeppelin museum at Friedrichshafen and the thermal spa at Bad Saulgau were good too! The team were led by Martin Kirk and Steve Adams.
Meanwhile, behind the scenes, John Balcombe presented the UK's bid to host the 2014 IYPT in Britain (at Shrewsbury School) to the International Executive Committee. The bid was accepted and now the hard work begins (think London 2012 ....well, maybe not quite on such a large scale, but we hope it will have the same 'feel good' factor!)