Link to pictures of Vienna, taken by Adam Simpkins and put on his webpage at
From: Hugh Haskell <[email protected]>
To: <[email protected]>
Sent: Thursday, June 03, 1999 10:09 PM
Now that the dust has settled here at NCSSM and I've turned in my grades, I
can take a few minutes to fill in some of the final details of our trip.
For those of you who may not have seen them yet, there are a number of
pictures on the Vienese website at
<http://www.univie.ac.at/IYPT99/iyptviee.htm>, as well as several other
links that may be of interest. Adam has said he will post his pictures to a
web site at NCSSM, but I don't have the URL for it yet.
I am absolutely delighted that we all got home in order, and apparently we
got back with the same people we left with-a remarkable achievement. As you
know, our team did not make the semi-finals, finishing at no. 13 (out of 19
teams). I was disappointed, but satisfied that, all things considered, our
finish was respectable for a first-time entrant, and considering that we
got a pretty late start on our preparations.
I have also heard that Mark's carry-on bag has turned up and will be
shipped. It apparently was picked up by mistake by a member of the Polish
team. By the way, the e-mail address of the Polish team leader, Dr. Nadolny
Andrzej, is <mailto://[email protected]>. I am told that the Blevins
family needed this address to properly thank the Polish team for retrieving
Mark's bag. Speaking of things to be returned, Romano Rupp, the Vienna
organizer of the event e-mailed me yesterday to request that either Mark or
Adam please return the key to their room at Strebersdorf (maybe it was in
Mark's bag?). It would probably be best to send it directly to Dr. Rupp, so
he will know it has been taken care of. His address is:
Univ. Prof. Dr. Romano Rupp
Institut f. Experimentalphysik of the Univ. of Vienna
A-1090 Vienna, Austria
His e-mail address is <mailto://[email protected]>.
And one final administrative note, I received an e-mail from Per Bengtsson,
a member of the Swedish Team, which I have included below. Its contents
speak for themselves.
My name is Per Bengtsson and I was a participant of the Swedish team
at the 12th IYPT in Vienna last week. Unfortunately the American
team had to leave the school before the important exchange of e-mail
addresses took place Saturday morning. I myself, my teammates and the
Australian team, would very much like to get in touch with the
American team, and if you could help us we would be very grateful. If
you know any of their current e-mail addresses please forward a
request that they send a short greeting telling us how we can reach
them. If they don't want to, that is all right of course, but at
least then we will know.
I can be reached at the e-mail address <mailto://[email protected]> and if they
send an e-mail to me I can forward the addresses to the Swedish and
Now a few comments on the week of the tournament. Although I think that our
team's performance was judged fairly, I was disappointed primarily because
it meant that their participation in a five-day event was effectively ended
on Tuesday, leaving them with three days to essentially tread water until
the closing ceremony. I suggested to the leadership of the IYPT that they
should consider either adding more preliminary rounds or spreading the ones
they have out over a longer time, or both. The students worked hard
preparing 15 problems that they were more or less prepared to present, but
they had the opportunity to present only three. Adding more preliminary
rounds would not only have kept them occupied further into the week, but
would have given them the opportunity to present more of the work that they
prepared so hard to do. This suggestion was favorably received and I
suspect that it will be adopted, if not next year, then in the near future.
That issue aside, the team did have the opportunity to enjoy Vienna for a
couple of days. On Tuesday we attended a "welcoming" banquet at the Rathaus
(city hall). Wednesday was a day off for everybody, and our team and the
Australian girls spent the day together, under the tutelage of our guide
and the Australian team leaders. Chuck and I stayed away, feeling that they
had a gracious plenty of adult supervision and didn't needs us "old fogeys"
along to slow them down. Reports heard in passing indicated that they had a
very enjoyable day poking around the nooks and crannies of old town Vienna.
Dahl struck out on her own and ended up spending the entire day in the
company of Dr. Wolfgang Berger, a professor from Germany, and one of the
jurists for the tournament. When I saw them that evening, it was obvious
that Dahl had had a wonderful experience, and later Dr. Berger told me
privately that he had enjoyed the day as much as Dahl had.
Thursday morning was the semi-finals and Thursday afternoon was free.
Friday morning we were treated to presentations by Dr. Wojciech Dindorf of
Poland, Dr. Augustinus Asenbaum of Austria, and Dr. Ron Edge of the USA,
who showed us some marvelous and simple physics experiments and equipment.
Just a word about Dr. Edge. He is a professor emeritus of the University of
South Carolina. He is originally from Lancastershire, England, and holds a
PhD in physics from Cambridge University (Newton's old school, you know).
He has been in the US since about 1960. I have known him for several years,
ever since I was enlisted as an instructor in a workshop based on some work
of his. He was one of the organizers of the US participation in the
International Physics Olympiad, in 1985, and was one of its coaches for the
first year. He is also a past president of the American Association of
Physics Teachers, and I am fortunate to be able to count him among my
friends. It was Ron who gave us the opportunity to enter this competition
when he called me last September, asking if I would be willing to form a
team and lead it in the tournament. He had met some of the leaders of the
organization at a conference in Germany the previous summer and felt that
this was a competition worth pursuing, so when he retgurned to the US, he
tried to drum up some official support for the effort but was unable to do
so. The leadership of the AAPT, however, did not object when he suggested
that he could offer the opportunity to NCSSM, and the rest, including our
last minute funding miracle thanks to NCSSM alumnus Joe Britt, is history.
Well, back to the last day. Friday afternoon, we watched the finals
between, Germany, Austria I, and Georgia. All three teams were excellent
and the competition was close to the end, but in the end, Germany
prevailed. From here things kind of deteriorated. As we waited for the
official results to be announced and the awards to be given, people started
drifting away, including the President of the organization, Dr. Tibell from
Sweden. When they started the awards ceremony he was nowhere to be found.
Our team must have followed him, because when it came time to receive our
diplomas, only Chuck, Dahl and I of the American contingent were still in
the hall. We met up again at the location of the closing banquest and
party, and everyone got their diplomas and parting gift the next morning.
The party went on until the wee small hours (which is why all our team
members found it so easy to sleep on the plane trip home), so everyone was
dragging at breakfast. But with the unfortunate exception of Mark's bag
everyone and their luggage made it to the airport and onto the plane home,
where we were met by the wonderful welcome you had prepared for us.
I want to thank everyone for the excellent support you gave us and for
letting your student attend this event. I also want to tell you that every
member of the team acquitted him- or herself marvelously. There were no
problems, no one got lost and no one got into any trouble. They were all
excellent representative of the United States and you can be proud of all
of them, individually and collectively. I would be only too happy to do the
same thing over again with the same group. Thanks again to all, both
parents and students.
I have one last request of the students. We asked each of them to keep a
journal of their trip, and I would like to ask each student to excerpt that
part of the journal that refers to their impressions of the competition and
the organization and execution of the tournament, and send it to me via
e-mail. It needn't be very long-a couple of pages should be plenty. Chuck
and I have been asked to prepare an article about our experience for the
magazine "The Physics Teacher," and I would like to include relevant
exerpts from the student's journals in that article. Chuck and I will be
working on the article in the next couple of weeks, so the sooner we get
the input from the students the better. Thanks in advance for doing this
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