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Two children at the physics day (c) Jana Dünnhaupt Uni Magdeburg
22.06.2023 from 
Campus + City
Physics competition for school children

What happens when a book falls off a table? Why can we ride a bicycle? Why does the earth revolve around the sun? All of this can be explained physically, because the laws of nature accompany us every second of our lives and form the basis for understanding our world. This makes it all the more important to get young people excited about STEM subjects - mathematics, computer science, natural sciences and technology. With this goal in mind, the "Physics Marathon 2023" started for the first time on May 22, 2023. The competition was created in cooperation between the University of Magdeburg, eLeMeNTe e.V. and the City of Magdeburg's Mi(n)t-Macher initiative. "There are far too few MINT competitions in the German-speaking world! Anything that fires up math and science knowledge, especially as a challenge to young, inquisitive people, can only be good. That is our motivation," says Dr. Eckard Specht from the Institute of Physics at Magdeburg University.

Experiment setup at the physics day (c) Jana Dünnhaupt Uni MagdeburgExperiment setup at the Physics Day 2022 (Photo: Jana Dünnhaupt / Uni Magdeburg)

The interest in the new competition is enormous. Pupils and students from all over Germany are taking part in the Physics Marathon. So far, a total of 188 participants from over 120 schools and universities, including some from abroad, have sent in solutions to the first three tasks. The effort required to evaluate the submitted solutions is considerable. "Every submission is read, and the participants receive a personal response, whether it's high praise or advice on how to do things better if the idea didn't hit the mark once. In this way, there are learning effects on both sides," says Dr. Eckard Specht. An important principle in the evaluation of the submitted solutions is the strict preservation of anonymity. Just as in the correction process for mathematics and physics Olympiads, the performance must be scored without bias.

High school graduate Tim Schrenick from the Gymnasium Steglitz in Berlin became aware of the competition through his teacher. "Because I also took part in the Physics Olympiad last year, the marathon sounded like an exciting challenge to me. So I signed up right away," he says. Just like the athletic discipline, the "Physics Marathon" is all about stamina, because the competition spans 20 weeks. Each week, the participants are given a new task to solve. These tasks are also well suited for training for upcoming competitions such as the International Physics Olympiad, because "athletes train continuously to constantly improve their performance," says Dr. Eckard Specht. Tim Schrenick finds the tasks challenging but solvable so far. "It's a great feeling when you only understand half of the task at first, but then after a bit of thought you still come up with the correct result. In this respect, you prove your stamina. It's certainly good preparation for university."

Vorlesung am Tag der Physik (c) Jana Dünnhaupt Uni MagdeburgLecture on Physics Day 2022 (Photo: Jana Dünnhaupt / Uni Magdeburg)

"The physics marathon is an excellent opportunity to think about a concrete physics problem for a whole week before writing down your idea," says physicist Dr. Eckard Specht. "This is important for any study and wants to be practiced. To this end, all students are invited to try this out at the University of Magdeburg as part of a MINT study program." At the end of the marathon, an award ceremony will be held on November 4, 2023, on "Physics Day" at the University of Magdeburg.

Author: Catherine Birke
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