Join the Challenge

The State of Iowa Physics Competition is a series of five physics events for high school (Grades 9-12) students. The competition stresses creativity and ingenuity as well as an understanding of physics related principles and is intended to stimulate interest in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM). The competition emphasizes the scientific and engineering practices found in the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) and participation in the competition integrated with appropriate instruction can address the Iowa Core.

Toothpick bridge is judged at state physics competition

The State of Iowa Physics Competition has been revised to include one open state competition that include preliminary and final rounds on the same day with the preliminary round in the morning and the final round in the afternoon. The preliminary round replaces the regional competition to be used as a qualifier for the final round for the state competition. Regional competitions may still be held for teams to practice for the state competition but the teams still must qualify in the preliminary round on the day of the state competition to move onto the final round.

Each participating school will be allowed to bring up to 3 entries per event (or 3 event teams) for the State of Iowa Physics Competition preliminary round and those who qualify will move onto the final round. A school's highest scoring event team per event will be used to determine a school's overall competition score. See rules for details.

The Next Competition

Competition Details

Plans are being made to have the 2021-22 State Physics Competition be held on Tuesday, April 12, 2022 at the University of Northern Iowa (UNI) McLeod Center in Cedar Falls but this will be dependent on the COVID situation.  Registration would be at 8:30 am.  The preliminary round for events will begin at 9:30 am with the final round in the afternoon with the competition to tentatively end by 4:30 pm.  Tours, exhibits, demonstrations, and possibly other activities may be planned during the day. 

Four individuals observing a toothpick bridge being measured for strength.

Tentative Events

The tentative events (which may change) for the competition include the following:

  • Catapult,
  • Mouse trap car,
  • Bridge building,
  • Soda straw arm, and
  • Measurement
Student with mousetrap car as part of a physics competition event

Materials

Students will use a variety of everyday, inexpensive materials such as mousetraps, compact discs, rubber bands, toothpicks, straws, etc. to build their devices to accomplish specific tasks (catapult, mouse trap car, toothpick bridge, and soda straw arm); and will determine the measurement and uncertainty for a given object (measurement).  The Vernier Structures & Materials Tester is the testing device that will be used for the toothpick bridge at the state competition.  See rules below for the specific details for each event.     

Student getting ready to launch a ping pong ball as part of a physics competition event

The State of Iowa Physics Competition is hosted by the UNI Physics Department and coordinated by Dr. Larry Escalada (Lawrence.Escalada@uni.edu). Please feel free to contact Larry if you have any questions about the competition.