The University Physics Competition

The 2013 University Physics Competition

The fourth annual University Physics Competition started on Friday, November 13, 2013 at 6pm MDT, when the following problems were posted:

Problem A.  Gravitationally Assisted Jupiter Orbital Entry
Space probes to the outer solar system will often use a gravity assist maneuver, flying past a planet like Venus to gain speed.  When a probe reaches an outer planet, like Jupiter, it must slow down, in order to enter orbit, and this can consume a substantial amount of fuel.  It has been suggested that a spacecraft arriving at Jupiter could use Jupiter’s moons to perform a gravity assist maneuver to slow down the spacecraft, thus saving fuel.  Evaluate whether this is a realistic strategy to produce significant fuel savings for a spacecraft arriving at Jupiter (approaching Jupiter's system) at a speed of 20 km/s. 

Problem B.  Extraterrestrial Life
Recently, astronomers have discovered earth-like planets orbiting other stars. Many planets have been found in the habitable zones surrounding their parent stars where liquid water, and possibly life, might exist on the planet’s surface.  Assume such a planet exists, and that its mass is eight times that of earth while its radius is twice that of earth.  The average surface temperature on the planet is 250 K. A four legged animal has evolved to live on the equator of this planet.  Produce a physics-based analysis on how life on this planet might be similar to, or different from, creatures that evolved on earth.  For example consider questions such as:  Relative to a similar creature on earth, how large would such an animal be?  What shape would it be?  How fast would it move?

The following announcement of results was made on Wednesday, January 15, 2014:

Full results announcement and complete listing of all medals in the 2013 University Physics Competition

We are very pleased to announce the results of the fourth 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 15, 16, & 17 2013, analyzing an applied scenario using the principles of physics, and writing a formal paper describing their work.


In this year’s competition 121 teams submitted papers for judging. 52 teams selected “Problem A - Gravitationally Assisted Jupiter Orbital Entry” and 69 teams selected “Problem B – Extraterrestrial Life.”


For Problem A, the Gold Medal Winning Team was:


Team 538: Shouzhen Gu, Shun Da Suo, & Wuhan Zhou

Institution: University of Waterloo

Faculty Sponsor: Robert Mann


For problem B, the Gold Medal Winning Team was:


Team 611: Ryan Endsley, Christina Kreisch, & Nathaniel Stein

Institution: Washington University in St Louis

Faculty Sponsor: Francesc Ferrer


Of the 121 paper submitted in the 2013 University Physics Competition, 2 teams (1.7%) were ranked as Gold Medal Winners, 22 teams (18%) were ranked as Silver Medal Winners, 32 teams (26%) were ranked as Bronze Medal Winners, and 65 teams (54%) were ranked as Accomplished Competitors.


We extend our sincerest congratulations to each of the 121 competing teams for their excellent work and their enthusiasm for physics!


Kelly S. Cline

Carroll College; Helena, MT

Director of the 2013 University Physics Competition,

Above, 2013 Gold Medal Winners: Christina Kreisch, Ryan Endsley, & Nathaniel Stein
Above, 2013 Gold Medal Winners: Robert Mann, Shouzhen Gu, Shun Da Suo, & Wuhan Zhou