Physics Honors students take fifth in nationwide Physics Bowl

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Physics Honors students take fifth in nationwide Physics Bowl

Karen Feng

Physics teacher Jim Birdsong reviews concepts covered during the in-class lecture with Physics Bowl winner Marvin Qi. Most of the Physics Bowl winners cited Birdsong as the source of most of their knowledge. Photo by Karen Feng.

Physics teacher Jim Birdsong reviews concepts covered during the in-class lecture with Physics Bowl winner Marvin Qi. Most of the Physics Bowl winners cited Birdsong as the source of most of their knowledge. Photo by Karen Feng.

2012 has been a successful year for physics teacher Jim Birdsong’s Physics Honors and AP students. Earlier this school year, 13 competing students from MVHS became Physics Olympiad national semifinalists. On March 28, five of his Physics Honors students took the American Association of Physics Teachers’ Physics Bowl test in B106. On May 8, they learned that they had taken fifth in the nation — the first time a group from MVHS has placed in the Physics Bowl.

Each year, about 10,000 students nationwide participate in the Physics Bowl within one of 15 regions nationwide and in one of two divisions, with Division I participants having one year of experience and Division II participants having two or more. They have 45 minutes to answer 40 multiple-choice questions based on basic physics concepts, with school team scores based on the sum of the school’s top five students’ scores. Out of the 16 MVHS students who competed in the Physics Bowl this year, the top five Division I MVHS students were sophomore Prem Nair (with a score of 34 out of 40), sophomore Marvin Qi (32), sophomore Anna Liu (30), junior Vincent Wang (28) and sophomore Ashutosh Jindal (26), scoring a total of 150 points out of a possible 200 to take fifth nationwide. Additionally, Nair scored fifth in the nation for his individual score.

To Birdsong, the students’ success is a validation for their hard work.

“It’s a yardstick they can use to measure themselves to see what they’ve learned in this year to make it seem more valuable to them,” he said.

Both Liu and Nair expressed that they were already interested in math and science, but that their success in this event strengthened their resolve to enter math and science fields in the future.

“I used to think that I’m not that good but [after this, I think that I] can actually do something like this in terms of pursuing physics in the future,” Liu said.

Despite their record-setting achievement of winning the school’s first team physics competition and Nair’s personal accomplishment of placing individually, the students did not prepare much for the Physics Bowl outside of class.

“I learned some physics on my own over the summer,” Nair said. “But the thing that prepared me the most was Birdsong’s class.”

However, Birdsong reasons that the students succeeded because of their own dedication to the subject, as he did not consciously try to help students prepare for competition. Even so, he’s happy for them.

“I got lucky, I guess. I’m glad that they valued [my teaching], but they’re good students who remembered what they were taught, “Birdsong said. “That’s the main thing. It’s a very impressive achievement.”