The University Physics Competition 

The 2011 University Physics Competition

The 2011 contest started on Friday, November 4, 2011 at 6pm MDT, when the following problems were posted:

Problem A. Space Tower Launch Costs:

Sending payloads into low earth orbit on traditional rockets is very expensive, with current costs running approximately $15,000 US Dollars per kilogram.  If a tower could be built tall enough, rockets might be launched from the top of this tower and reduce the cost of sending a payload into orbit.  How much would it cost to launch a payload of 10,000 kg from towers of different heights?

Problem B. Shooting a Basketball for Three Points


In the game of basketball, a player scores three points by successfully making a shot from beyond the three point line, which is 6.2 meters away from the basket in international games, such as the Olympics.  Suppose a player in an Olympic basketball game is at the three point line standing at a point making an angle 45 degrees to the principal axes of the court.   What initial ball velocities and spins will result in a successful shot from this point?

77 teams submitted solutions for judging before the 48 hour deadline had elapsed.  The following announcement of results was made on Monday, December 19, 2011:

Full results announcement and complete listing of all medals in the 2011 University Physics Competition

We are very pleased to announce the results of the second annual University Physics Competition. The University Physics Competition is an international contest for undergraduate students, who worked in teams of up to three students at their home colleges and universities all over the world, and spent 48 hours during the weekend of November 4, 5 & 6 analyzing an applied scenario using the principles of physics, and writing a formal paper describing their work.


During this year 77 teams submitted papers for judging. 28 teams selected “Problem A - Space Tower Launch Costs” and 49 teams selected “Problem B - Shooting a Basketball for Three Points.”


For Problem A, the Gold Medal Winning Team was:


Team 352: Christopher Frye, Jie Liang, & Ryan Hardy

Institution: University of Central Florida

Team Advisor: Costas Efthimiou


The 2011 Problem A Gold Medal Winning Paper: "Space Tower Launch Costs"

For problem B, the Gold Medal Winning Team was:


Team 379: Rebecca Schutzengel, Patrick Varin, & Brendan Quinlivan

Institution: F. W. Olin College of Engineering

Team Advisor: Yevgeniya V. Zastavker

The 2011 Problem B Gold Medal Winning Paper: "The Physics of a Three Point Shot"


Of the 77 teams in the 2011 University Physics Competition, 2 teams (3%) were ranked as Gold Medal Winners, 14 teams (18%) were ranked as Silver Medal Winners, 21 teams (27%) were ranked as Bronze Medal Winners, and 40 teams (52%) were ranked as Accomplished Competitors. The 2011 University Physics Competition received official sponsorship from the American Physical Society and American Astronomical Society, which provided prizes for the gold medal winning teams.


We extend our sincerest congratulations to each of the 77 competing teams for their excellent work and their enthusiasm for physics!


Kelly S. Cline

Carroll College; Helena, MT

Director of the 2011 University Physics Competition,

2011 Gold Medal Winners: Christopher Frye, Jie Liang, & Ryan Hardy