RCDS to Host International Physics Tournament

For the first time, Rye Country Day School will host the United States Invitational Young Physicists Tournament (USIYPT), an annual physics research and debate tournament for high school students. On January 26-27, thirteen teams from throughout the country and the world will compete for the title. The entire RCDS community is welcome to attend this special event to cheer on the School's delegates as they present their research and battle to earn Rye Country Day's third USIYPT championship (previous titles were won in 2012 and 2017)!

Over the course of the last year, school-based teams have investigated several undergraduate-level research problems in preparation for the tournament. Teams then compete in "physics fights," or student-led debates over the quality of each team's solution. Each round begins with the reporting team giving a ten-minute summary on one of the four official tournament problems. Next, the opponent and reporter engage in discussion about the problem, just as members of competing research groups at a conference might discuss a presentation. Teams are evaluated by a team of judges, mainly physics professors and professionals, on their demonstrated understanding of the problem, as well as on their ability to ask and answer questions.

2019 Official Tournament Problems

1. Extraterrestrial Rainbows: When it is both sunny and rainy, we see rainbows.What if, rather than water, it rained some other clear liquid, as it does on Saturn's moon Titan? If, some day, future astronomers took a picture of a non-water rainbow, could they determine the chemical composition of the raindrops from the image? Investigate, both experimentally and theoretically, the physics of rainbows caused by a variety of clear liquids.

2. Faraday's Homopolar Generator: Michael Faraday set up a round copper plate in a magnetic field and used it to generate current, which he measured using a galvanometer. Reproduce Faraday's experiment. Investigate how it works both experimentally and theoretically.

3. Juggling Hammers: Hold a typical carpenter's hammer with the claw up. Throw it in the air, catching it by the handle after a single rotation. The claw will still be up. Paradoxically, if you turn it 90 degrees and throw the hammer again, the claw will now be on the opposite side. Investigate this both experimentally and theoretically.

4. Pneumatic Tube Mail Systems: Up until the mid 20th century, pneumatic mail systems were installed to quickly transport small items over short distances, but they sometimes exploded when scaled up over longer distances. Design, and build, a working pneumatic tube mail system. Investigate the feasibility of using such a system for high-speed travel.

In addition to providing students with the opportunity to showcase the considerable work they have completed on their research projects, the event also features a keynote by RCDS alumni Dr. Alfred A. Rizzi '82, Chief Scientist at Boston Dynamics, on Saturday, January 26 at 3PM. RCDS community members are welcome to attend any or all of the events throughout the weekend.

Schedule of Events

Saturday 26 January

  • 9:15: Opening ceremony for all participants – PAC Theater
    Each team's schedule is determined by random draw at the opening ceremony
  • 9:45: Round 1: physics fights take place in six locations on campus TBA
  • 10:45: Round 2
  • 12:00: Round 3
  • 1:45: Round 4
  • 2:45: Round 5
  • 3:45: Keynote Address by Dr. Alfred A. Rizzi '82, – PAC Theater

Sunday 27 January

  • 8:45: Round 6
  • 10:00: Round 7
  • 11:45: Announcement of "playoff" teams, and draw for playoff matrix – PAC Theater
  • 12:00*: Playoff round 1
  • 1:00*: Playoff round 2
  • 1:00-2:00: Swartz Poster Session - PAC Foyer
  • 2:15*: Playoff round 3
  • 3:15*: Playoff round 4
  • 4:15*: Closing ceremony – PAC Theater

*Playoff rounds will run back-to-back-to-back. As soon as jurors are ready, the next round begins.

Participating Schools



Pioneer High School Menzah VIII

Ariana, Tunisia

Nueva School

Hillsborough, CA

Woodberry Forest School

Woodberry Forest, VA

Rye Country Day School

Rye, NY

Phillips Exeter Academy

Exeter, NH

Shenzhen Middle School

Shenzhen, China

Vanke Meisha Academy

Shenzhen, China

Qingdao No.2 High School

Qingdao, China

Phillips Andover Academy

Andover, MA

Cary Academy

Cary, NC

Spartanburg Day School

Spartanburg, SC

The Harker School

San Jose, CA

Pioneer School of Ariana

Aryanah, Tunisia