Wednesday, March 1, 2017

Physics Team Victory in 2017!

       Since fully implementing Physics First in 2012 the Physics Team from McGill-Toolen has won 3rd place or higher among all schools at the regional (multi-state attended) University of Alabama High School Physics Competition (over the 5 of 6 years since). McGill-Toolen has won first in their division for 5 consecutive years.  Prior to the implementation of Physics First the school had participated but never won at the competition.
       All the Physics First classes were initially taught with Physics teachers trained in modeling.  Presently ALL of the Physics Team members on the winning teams (all past and present) went through the modeling based Honors Physics class as freshman (no exceptions in 5 years).  Five team members won individual medals (and qualified for a scholarship) in the last six years.
University of Alabama Ferguson Center 
in TUSCALOOSA, AL 
UNIVERSITY OF ALABAMA HIGH SCHOOL PHYSICS COMPETITION
January 27, 2017

        McGill-Toolen Catholic High School took part in the 41st annual University of Alabama High School Physics Competition at the Ferguson Center on Friday January 26th, 2017 in Tuscaloosa, Alabama. There were more than 70 teams and 300 of the best senior level physics students from schools in Alabama and Mississippi.  The McGill-Toolen A-Team won first place in the Private School division and third place over all teams in all divisions.   McGill-Toolen was also awarded 3rd Place among all Schools in all divisions.
        The day of the competition began with a mass at Holy Spirit Parish in Tuscaloosa.   An hour later grueling individual physics tests were taken.  After the individual exams Dr. Keel (a competition sponsor) invited the McGill-Toolen Physics Team to look at sunspots seen forming through a solar viewer set up by the window in the Ferguson Center.  Soon afterward was the team cipher that lasted an hour and a half in the Ferguson Center ballroom.
        Teams are placed in divisions of small public schools, large public schools, private schools and science-math magnet schools. All divisions do the same problems at the same time and are rated based on correct answer and time of response.
        The McGill-Toolen A Team consisted of juniors Peter McDonald Patrick Spafford, Marvin Collins and Gus Grow.   This team was awarded first place in the "Private School Division" and won 3rd place among all schools in all divisions.  This is the 5th consecutive year that the McGill-Toolen A-Team has placed 1st in the Private School Division.  It is also the 5th consecutive year that the Physics Team has placed as one of the top three teams over all teams in all divisions at the competition.
       The C-Team won 3rd place in the Private School Division" and included sophomores Bekah Burgess, Findlay Maier, Mary Alice Jouves and freshman Buddy Arensberg.
        McGill-Toolen Catholic High School also won 3rd Place among all Schools in all divisions.  This is the fifth consecutive year that McGill-Toolen has placed among the top three schools among all schools at the competition.  Competitors representing McGill-Toolen Catholic High School included senior Josh Maier, juniors Peter McDonald,  Patrick Spafford, Marvin Collins and Gus Grow, sophomores Bekah Burgess, Mary Alice Jouves, Joseph Keegan, Nicholas Johnston.and freshman Murphy Douglas and Buddy Arensberg
         Perfect team competition rounds (correctly answering all 4 presented physics problems correctly in 40 seconds or less). Perfect team rounds were posted by Peter McDonald, Marvin Collins and Patrick Spafford.

Competition Action:
        The McGill-Toolen A-Team got off to a rough start and actually fell off the leader board for 3 of the 16 rounds for the first time in 5 years.  One always wonders how a team will respond to such adversity and our McGill-Toolen Competitors showed great composure, focus, persistence and skill as the McGill-Toolen A-Team roared back to the top of the "leader board".   Three consecutive A-Team competitors posted all perfect rounds (kudos to Marvin Collins, Patrick Spafford & Peter McDonald) in a breathtaking run of 12 consecutive perfect rounds (correct answers in the shortest possible time).   The McGill-Toolen A-Team went on to win an undisputed 1st Place in the Private School Division  (so I lose my hair again).  The A-Team tied with Oak Mountain and Auburn High Schools for 1st Place overall team in all divisions.  The McGill-Toolen A-Team was assigned 3rd place over all teams based on scholarship exam score tiebreaker  (Oak Mountain 73- McGill-Toolen 70- Auburn-70)

       The Award Ceremony is normally just a confirmation of what the scoreboard was at the end of the Cypher Competition.  This year was different and the ceremony was full of tension and excitement because tie breaks (individual exam scores) had to be used so often.  Our A-Team lost in a three-way tiebreaker to Auburn High School and Oak Mountain High School (all three teams scored 70 points) and was awarded 3rd place over all teams in all divisions.

       In our division the McGill-Toolen B-Team lost a 2nd place tie breaker with Indian Springs.  Our C-Team had the 3rd highest score in the division but was not awarded a placement. (McGill-Toolen 70, Indian Springs 43, McGill-Toolen B 43, McGill-Toolen C 40)

       Many schools do not come if they do not "project" winning so only the best programs show up on any given year.  This makes every year a struggle for those who come.
       After the competition and lunch there was a "Physicist Seminar" where Physicists in the workplace answer questions from students.  Then there was a Physics Demonstration show (which students always enjoy) and finally the Award Ceremony.
      Physics Team moderator Dr. Tim Burgess (McGill-Toolen Science Chair) noted "The talent and dedication of this team was extraordinary. This amazing performance is an accomplishment rare for any school from any region. Such consistency over half a decade occurs for only the very best of programs and speaks volumes about our students, their parents and our community."

      The McGill-Toolen performance is the direct result of the extraordinary talent, capability and work ethic of our very special students. The emphasis of McGill-Toolen in recent years on the synergistic relationship between faith and science has laid the ground work for the accomplishments of our outstanding science students. Success also springs from the support of our community as displayed in the fabulous facilities and resources our students enjoy while doing scientific reasoning day in and day out in the class room. Success is only possible with parental and community support!"


Comments:
       Dr. Burgess stated "Physics is the gateway discipline to Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics careers.  The amazing performance of our Physics Competitors in winning at statewide says something substantial about the preparation our students are getting in STEM related courses.  Students who learn to genuinely reason in science will certainly nurture more career options (including STEM careers) AND also develop a deep and vibrant faith.  Our success also springs from the support of our community as displayed in the fabulous facilities and resources our students enjoy while doing scientific reasoning day in and day out in the class room.  Success, as we had these last four years, is only possible with community support and we are very grateful!"


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In all the material above it is important to remember that the views expressed by me here, on any website or in any publication 
do not  represent the views of  McGill-Toolen Catholic High School, 
Archdiocese of Mobile or any  part of the Universal Catholic Church.

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