17 June 2006

NUS Physics Open House 2006

The NUS Physics Open House 2006, organised by the NUS Physics Society, took place from 140606 to 160606. Planned for an audience of secondary school students, it comprises a series of activities such as lectures, competitions and quizzes.

Being the organisers, we had to start planning it in the December vacations. Although things went into slow motion during the second half of the previous semester (naturally, due to increased school work), once the exams ended, this became one of my major concerns.

In fact, during the few days before the actual event itself, just after I came back from ICT, there was lots of stuff to be settled, so much so that sometimes we were rather confused about what is going on. It was like running through a maze in a fog. Fortunately, everything went quite smoothly. Except for some minor hiccups, I must say that we had a job well done.

The lectures were by Prof Sow Chorng Haur and Prof Vlatko Vedral. Prof Sow spoke on his expertise, nanotechnology, with lots of ingenious experiments to aid his explanations. Prof Vlatko Vedral talked about the relationship between thermodynamics and computing.

I wasn't around to listen to the first as I was delegated to the registration booth outside the LT (the booth had to stay open in case of schools coming in late), but from the laughters coming from inside, it must've been very interesting and engaging. However, the lecture was too long (an error on our part, not Prof Sow's), so, from what I've heard, some of the audience were disconnected.

Prof Vlatko Vedral's lecture was more interesting. I was around through the entire lecture, though I was running around taking photos and hence missed some portions. Nonetheless, I learned quite a number of amazing facts (such as deleting a file will cause an increase in temperature), but I think it was a bit too advanced for many of the students there.

The quiz had two parts. The first part was a multiple choice quiz, in which all participating schools went through. The top four finalists in this section will go on to the second part, which was a buzzer quiz as well as a game similar to the now-defunct Pyramid Game.

The four finalists were RI (team A), RI (team B), NUS High and Nanyang Girls' High School. It was quite a good battle, but clearly, RI (team A) floored the rest. They took a great lead in the Pyramid Game, and though NUS High did excellently in the later buzzer round, they were not able to close up on the insanely huge gap.

The RI teams very well impressed me. I mean, if they know, at their level, about Heisenberg's Uncertainty Principle, Schwarzchild Radius (this they got it in less than five seconds) and such words that appear in the Pyramid Game round, I think their first place was well deserved.

The airlift competition was the major highlights of the Open House. The schools participating in this competition were to build a device which can transport a load through a selected distance. I shall not go into the details (if you're interested, you can find it out here. It was a modification of last year's competition.

Organising it was a rather tedious job. We had to sit down and work through the rules and scoring system. And that's before we decided to do an airlift competition; prior to that we had lots of brainstorming sessions to come up with other ideas. That was months ago. Then when the date drew near, we had to settle stuff like how to mark out the distances, where to put the students, and how to organise the score keepers etc.. And then there was the reports to grade.

Anyway, there were the standard water rockets (but some were rather impressively done) and then there were those that impresses me just by sight (like NUS High's). A few were tad disappointing, but overall I think the schools put it good efforts. The top four finalists, RI, NUS High, RGS and Bukit View Secondary School, were to do a presentation of their devices to the other students as well as the two judges we invited: Prof Chung Keng Yeow and Dr Phil Chan.

Bukit View Secondary School

NUS High School



Eventually, RI took the first place, followed by NUS High, then RGS, and finally Bukit View Secondary School. Well done to them, and to all other schools which participated too. But most importantly, I hope they had fun at the same time.

I'm quite glad this is finally over now, so I can bury horrible thoughts of the Open House going wrong. There's remains a few things to settle, but those shouldn't give me too much headache.

Anyway, on an ending note, here's some sort of a different kind of "airlift" from the Japanese:

No comments: