Physics Undergraduates Win Bronze at Physics Competition

After 48 hours of analyzing and writing, three UCF physics majors showed the importance of research by winning the bronze medal in their participation of the fifth annual University Physics Competition.


From left: Brandon Blue, Chris Tiller, and Dylan Bruce.

The team of Brandon Blue, Chris Tiller, and Dylan Bruce performed calculations on the orbital stability of planets and determined their conclusion based on a background literature search.

“We were all quite excited to finally hear the news, almost regardless of the outcome, and the bronze medal ranking made it all the better,” Blue said.

The University Physics Competition is an international contest for undergraduate students that takes place every November.  Teams of three from around the world are selected to compete and are able to work from their respective colleges or universities. A pair of physics-related questions are released on the competition’s website at a particular time at the start of the weekend.  The teams are given 48 hours to consider the questions, do research or experiments and then write a 10-page paper.

This year, the two problems consisted of analyzing water fountain spray distribution and the orbital stability of planets in a binary star system.

“The competition was held just around Thanksgiving, when UCF slows down significantly, so the three of us holed up in the library, from around opening to closing,” Blue said. “We shared our initial thoughts and did some reading until we were comfortable with our approach to the problem and settled into our respective jobs.”

Blue said that over 100 groups participated in the competition this year, so his team didn’t receive any results for two months as the judges deliberated on the quality of each paper. When the judges finally announced their decisions, Blue discovered his team was the only one out of a dozen teams from Florida to win a medal.

With this achievement, Blue also said that he hopes that other students will take this opportunity to collaborate in physics outside of the classroom.

“It seems like a daunting task at first; submitting a paper you and two of your friends wrote over a weekend to be judged on a global scale, but the experience is well worth it,” he said.

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