We had an unveiling of our quadrocopter parts today ūüėĬ†¬† When it’s done it may look something similar to this.

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The 2011 Physics Olympics

Welcome to the 2011 Physics Olympics, hosted by the Foothill Science and Engineering Association!

The Physics Olympics is a competition to test your knowledge of physics, emphasizing creativity and fun.

Friday, June 17, 2011 from 12:00pm to 4:00pm
Refreshments will be provided

Physics rooms 5406, 5407

A short summary of each event is provided below.

More detailed descriptions can be found in the Physics Olympics tab above.

Individual Events:
Inertia ball Рguide a massive ball through an obstacle course using only the handle of a broomstick.  Fastest time wins!
Block stacking – stack blocks to reach the farthest past the starting line with no blocks touching the ground past the starting line without collapsing

Group events (you can still do these individually if you like):
Electrostatic boat race – build a boat from aluminum foil and race it around a water course using only the force of static electricity
Water bottle rockets – build a water bottle rocket which can stay in the air for the longest time

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Physics Olympics 2011: Electrostatic Boat Race

The task is to build a boat using only a 12X12 inch piece of provided (or you can build it at home) aluminum foil and to propel it through the designated course using only static electricity.  The winner will be determined by the fastest time around the course.

Aluminum foil boats take into account  many of the same considerations as real boats. Some things to keep in mind for this competition is the boat’s hull design, and optimizing for maximum attractive force from static electricity. Unlike real boats, the factor of wind will be absent from this competition.

The Competition:
Participants will be use a 12X12 inch piece of aluminum foil to build a boat. A payload of zero to 10 pennies will be allowed. Participants will be provided a piece of fabric and PVC pipe to create a static charge which will then be used to move
the boat. The boats will be navigated through the provided course and timing will begin when participants touch the fabric to the PVC pipe. The fastest time will determine the winner.

If the any of the following rules are broken, the time will not count.

  • No disturbing the water – this means no blowing, dropping things into the water, or putting the PVC pipe in the water
  • Boats are to be propelled solely by static electricity – no blowing, pushing, or touching the boat with the PVC pipe
  • Boats are to be made only out of the entire 12×12 in. sheet of aluminum foil – other than cargo pennies, nothing else can be in the boat
  • Maximum time limit of 3 minutes will be enforced.


  • 12×12 inch sheet of aluminum foil* (bring your own foil)
  • pennies
  • piece of cloth
  • PVC pipe
  • aquatic stadium
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Physics Olympics 2011: Inertia Ball

To roll a bowling ball around a course using a broom stick in the least amount of time.

The inertia ball event is an excellent way for students to really “feel” the effects of inertia on motion.

The Competition:
1. A course will be set up on the floor of the physics lab room.
2. Using a broom stick, a bowling ball will be pushed around the course from a starting line to a finish line, while avoiding obstacles.
3. Each time you go “out of bounds” you will receive a 3 second penalty (3 sec will be added to your time).
4. Each time you hit a piece of furniture (table leg, cabinet, etc.) you will receive a 3 second penalty (3 sec will be added to your time).
5. For each orange cone you hit you will receive a 3 second penalty.
6. The broom stick must remain in contact with the bowling ball at all times.
7. Your final time will be the actual measured time from start to finish plus any penalty time accumulated during the run.
8. Lowest time wins.

All materials (bowling ball, broom stick, etc.) will be provided for you at the event.


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Physics Olympics 2011: Block Stacking

To construct a wooden block structure on one side of a reference line with the largest overhang over the line.

The brick wall event is an excellent way for students to show their applications of science and mathematics in creative and fun ways. Center of mass, statics, and structural design are just a few of the concepts needed.

The Competition:
1. The stacking surface will be a hard, smooth and level surface with a line marking the boundary.
2. The structure must be constructed using only the blocks provided.
3. The blocks will all be a uniform size, shape, and weight (some small variation in size, density, and mass can be expenced, due to the intrinsic nature of wood).
4. No part of the structure may touch the surface on one side of the line.
5. The time limit is 15 minutes.
6. Any number of attempts may be made within the allotted time with each being measured by a judge.
7. The structure must remain unsupported long enough to be measured by a judge.
8. The overhang is defined as the shortest horizontal distance from the line to the most distant part of the structure.
9. Only your largest overhang will be used to determine the final standings, where the participant with the largest overhang is the overall winner.

Materials (will be provided at the event):
· 15 blocks

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Physics Olympics 2011: Water Bottle Rockets

Update (6/10/2011):¬† About bringing your own launcher: short answer, no.¬† We view this as an engineering challenge – you do the best you can with the launchers you are provided.¬† In this case, you may have the resources to build a launcher to replace ours, but when you scale up, it won’t be able to replace components you don’t like, as it will be too expensive to do so (or possibly in case of government contract, impossible).¬† This is a reality of life, so start practicing!

Update (6/3/2011):¬† We’ve had some questions about the propulsion of the rockets, so here’s some clarification.¬† We provide a rocket launcher for all of you.¬† So we don’t want anything in your bottles that might gunk up our launcher.¬† This means nothing but water and air in the bottle.¬† Secondly, the only source of propulsion for the bottle rockets should be the pressure in the bottle.¬† No turbofan engines, solid rocket boosters, or other added propulsion.¬† Thanks!

The task is to build a water bottle rocket out of a standard 2 liter soda bottle. The winner will be determined by the longest length of time the rocket is airborne.

Effective water bottle rockets take into account many of the same considerations as ‚Äúreal‚ÄĚ rockets.¬† Just as with ‚Äúreal‚ÄĚ rockets, students should take into consideration ¬†¬†propellant mass fraction, stability of flight, and engineering an effective reentry system.

The Competition:

The water bottle rocket launcher (pictured below) will be provided . You must use a standard 2 liter soda bottle with a neck of the same measurement as pictured in the second picture below. You will fill your rocket with the desired amount of water, and place it on the launcher.  You, or someone appointed by you, will then use the bicycle pump to fill the launcher with the desired pressure (between 70 and 110psi), and release it when ready. The amount of water, the exact pressure, and all external  attachments (which must  be deemed safely secured by the judges), is left up  to the discretion of the participants.   Time in flight will be timed by the judges and will begin when the rocket leaves the launcher and finishes at the point of contact with the ground.  If the rocket lands on a surface other than that of the ground (i.e. tree, roof), the timer will be stopped at the time of contact and will be considered its landing time.  You will be allowed 3 launches, no exceptions.  Judging will be based on the longest time in flight. Participants are encouraged to make modifications to the bottle so long as these modifications adhere to the guidelines set forth and does not jeopardize the safety of anyone involved.

Specifications for the bottle:

The bottle body must be a 2 liter bottle.  The lip of the bottle should be 1.6-1.8cm, which should be standard for a two liter bottle.  Other than this, there are no materials limitations.

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May 1: Trip to Computer History Museum

Date: Sunday, May 1, 2011 @ 10:00
Location: Computer History Museum in Mountain View (map)
Admission: free
Transportation:¬† We will meet at the Computer History Museum around 9:45am, and our tour starts at 10am.¬† If you require carpool, let us know in the form below, and we’ll try to accommodate you.

Are you interested in computers or electronics? Then you’ll want to check out the Computer History Museum. From mechanical computing devices vacuum tubes to semimodern computers, you can see the evolution that led to our computers today.¬† They recently remodelled, so there’s sure to be new things to see!

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March 28: SLAC Trip

Event: Trip to Stanford Linear Accelerator (SLAC)
Date: Monday, March 28, 2011  @  9:45 Рnoon

Transportation:¬† We will meet at Foothill around 9:45, and leave around 10am, carpooling in 3 vans to go to SLAC.¬† After the tour, we’ll head back to Foothill (maybe after some lunch).

Admission: free

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Build Day #1.

Foothill SEA officially commenced the construction of our RepRap, a self-REPlicating RAPid-prototyper.

A picture’s worth a thousand words so here they are…






Click here for our build day photo gallery.

or copy/paste


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Pictures: Our Visit to Foothill’s Solar Facilities

On March 1st, we went on a tour of Foothill’s solar installation.¬† Though they didn’t open up the boxes for the electronics, we still got some good pictures!

Our host from Chevron, Jeff Mu√Īoz

Here's why our solar panels aren't on yet: PG&E's meters aren't installed

A power switch. I wonder what this does?

Power switch close up: yes, it's off

Satcon Inverter Box

Satcon Inverter Box Overview

A Box With Heat Sinks: Inverter?

Solar panels, as seen from below

Operational specs: that's more than a kiloamp!

One of our favorites: if you can't remember how capacitors work, think of this sign.

Hope you enjoyed the pics!

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