The Experimental Project in the British Physics Olympiad was developed to support and encourage practical physics students in school. An interesting problem is posed, to be investigated using common household and school equipment. The project is written up in the style of an academic paper. The aim is to give students hands-on experience ofhow experimental research is carried out - planning and undertaking open-ended experiments and independent research, working in teams where appropriate and communicating their findings.
The experiments in the 2015 project investigated the resonance phenomenon for a simple pendulum. The students were very dedicated and put a lot of time an effort into the project and it is great to see their hard work pay off:
“Our experiment concerned simple harmonic motion and resonance - which translates to watching and measuring the shadow of a swinging plasticine pendulum in a dark room for several hours at a time. Free periods, lunchtimes and evenings after school were all dedicated to the collection of over one hundred data points, and we had no idea of what to expect from the pattern of our results.
We invaded the physics prep room to meticulously weigh, measure and suspend our apparatus, (and attempt to interpret the instructions we had been provided with by the organisation), in order to record, repeat, analyse and graph the strange behaviour of the pendulums.
We both learned a lot from the process, and it was highly relevant to the enormous errors and odd looking graphs found so frequently in the Higher IB syllabus! This was the first time either of us had completed a full scale experimental setup, analysis and write up, so we were both very surprised and excited to achieve a Bronze! “