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Dallastown hosts 25th Physics Olympics

Alyssa Pressler
505-5438/@AlyssaPressYD
  • Dallastown Area High School will host the 25th Physics Olympics in March.
  • Spectators are welcome to observe the games.

Students in York County will compete in physics and engineering challenges at Dallastown's 25th annual Physics Olympics in mid-March.

Dallastown Area High School hosts the Physics Olympics each year to foster students' interest in physics classes and to allow academic students the opportunity to compete in a different way, according to event founder and organizer Mark Ilyes.

A winning team from Dallastown Area High School's annual Physics Olympics in 2016.

Ilyes, a physics teacher at the high school, created the Physics Olympics 25 years ago with another teacher who has since retired. Since then, 100 to 150 students have competed each year from the district and surrounding schools.

"We’ve seen many students who are very good at competing in athletic events and music events," Ilyes said. "We also recognized there are students who are gifted academically that didn’t have much of an opportunity to compete outside of regular classes."

The Physics Olympics presents those students with the opportunity. Teams of up to five students can sign up to compete in the two-day event. Teams can include any students of high school age, but Ilyes said he isn't opposed to having middle school teams or even an alumni team compete if they're interested.

The teams of students compete in five events each day of the Olympics. On the first day, events take place behind closed doors so teams can't see opposing teams' strategies. An example of the types of events they have on the first day is the Mirror Madness challenge. Each team has five minutes to use several mirrors to get a laser beam pointed to a receiver.

Dallastown High School AP Physics teacher Sam Cohen, left,  helps Dover High School students Connor Speir, Noah Hogan, John Sengia, Wyatt Hoffman and Emily Eckard with the weigh station competition during the Physics Olympics Tuesday, Feb. 23, 2016, at Dallastown Area High School. Amanda J. Cain photo

On the second day, the events take place in the high school cafeteria and lobby. On that day, Ilyes said, spectators are welcome to watch the teams and cheer them on.

The teams will do things such as building a vortex cannon to blow out several candles within a certain amount of time or participating in a bicycle race where they have to compete an obstacle course at the slowest pace, forcing the students to work on the best way to balance the bike.

Ilyes said he isn't sure exactly which school districts will be participating just yet, but he is aware Spring Grove will be there. He said the two schools have a bit of a rivalry when it comes to the Physics Olympics. Last year Dallastown won overall, so he's thinking Spring Grove will be looking to take that honor back.

One of the positive aspects of the event, he said, is that it sometimes inspires students not involved in physics classes to take them after participating.

"We like to promote physics as a fun subject to study," Ilyes said. "Kids not even taking physics who compete may be interested in signing up for a course."

The design for this year's Physics Olympics t-shirts, which are given to all participants for free.

The event is a great opportunity to compete academically and possibly win cash prizes, organizers say. Ilyes said for the last five years or so the event has been sponsored by the Engineering Society of York. Their sponsorship helps pay for the T-shirts all participants receive, provides cash prizes for some events and offsets some costs for participating districts.

And the event gives students a way to apply what they learn in class to the real world.

"They can see the physics concepts they're learning in class have real-world applications," Ilyes said. "You can apply it to solve real-world problems."

The Physics Olympics will take place from 3:15 to 6 p.m. Tuesday, March 14, and Wednesday, March 15. Spectators are welcome to attend the second day of the event for free. Dallastown Area High School is at 700 New School Lane, Dallastown.

Dallastown Area High School students, clockwise from left, Blake Sebring, Koby Duke, Lauren Cooksey, Zach Berkley and Molly Lohss work together at the "give me a lift" station during the Physics Olympics Tuesday, Feb. 23, 2016, at Dallastown Area High School. Amanda J. Cain photo