Two of Andover High School’s own, seniors James Lee and Chris McKenna, have made it to the semifinalist portion of the International Physics Olympiad Competition.

According to the American Association of Physics Teacher website, “each year, AAPT and the American Institute of Physics (AIP) sponsor a competition for high school students to represent the United States at the 2014 International Physics Olympiad Competition. The mission of the U.S. Physics Team Program is to promote and demonstrate academic excellence through preparation for and participation in the International Physics Olympiad.”

If you are in AHS’s Physics C course, which is taught by Ms. Givens, you must take the initial exam as part of the curriculum. Both Lee and McKenna agree that extra preparation was unnecessary given that, as Lee said, “The physics curriculum covered all the topics” they were tested on.

According to McKenna, the preliminary exam is “a 25-question multiple choice test. Those who make a cutoff determined by the AAPT move onto the semifinals.”

“Of the 500 or so kids in the country who take the semifinal test, 20 will make the US team,” said McKenna.

According to the AAPT website, those who make the final 20 will “engage in ten days of intense studying, testing and problem solving” at a training camp held at the University of Maryland during the summer. Then, “at the end of that training camp, five team members will be chosen as the ‘Traveling Team’ to represent the United States Physics Team at the 45th International Physics Olympiad in Astana, Kazakhstan.”

Both Lee and McKenna have a special interest in physics that has helped them reach the semifinalist level. McKenna is planning on majoring in engineering. Lee is also planning on majoring in engineering and possibly aerospace.

Lee adds that he finds physics “fun and interesting…I plan to pursue it for a long time.” To him, physics explains why things work: “Physics explains Auroras and engines and there’s a really nice satisfaction that comes with knowing the internal mechanisms of the universe.”

By Elizabeth Bernardin