A Scientific "Battle"

On the 23rd of April, the ENS of Lyon won the finale of the International Physicists’ Tournament (a.k.a. IPT). The goal of the tournament? To confront the students from all over the world to problems of experimental physics during triangular challenges in English. The last round was held for the first time in Paris, on the campus of the École polytechnique.

Fifteen higher education institutions participated in the tournament. Each was represented by a team of six students in Licence or Master's course, led by two PhD students or researchers. After 8 months of preparations, the challengers took on 17 tricky problems such as: "Why is it hot inside a greenhouse?"; "How do you design an electromagnetic cannon to muffle your neighbours' sound system?"; "How long can a balloon rugged on cat's hair hang suspended to a wall?" and "How long can a drop bounce on a liquid surface?". 

Education Strategy

During these oral challenges, participants subsequently play the role of Reporter, Opponent and Reviewer. The reporting team has two minutes to present its research results. They are analysed by the opposing team during a debate moderated by the reviewing team. An hour later, the jury gives grades and roles are changed for a new problem.

The IPT is more than a mere scientific challenge: it's a real education programme. Organised in France by the Société française de physique (Society of French Physicists), it aims at training students on the path of research, practical experimentation, teamwork and international contextualisation. In most institutions, the preparation to the IPT is acknowledged as a stand-alone module validated by ECTS credits.

In parallel to the tournament, participants had the opportunity to visit the physics labs of the Paris region. The event was also open to the general public: an area dedicated to science popularization was opened to visitors in partnership with the Palais de la découverte and the Espace des sciences Pierre-Gilles de Gennes.

The tournament is gaining momentum

Born in 2009 in Ukraine, the IPT drew inspiration from the International Young Physicists’ Tournament, its high-school counterpart. Its characteristics is to entice students to think on "open" problems that do not have a single solution or may be resolved in various ways. Its objective is to test scientific thinking and in a practical efficiency.

In five years of existence, the tournament gained popularity. From the École polytechnique fédérale de Lausanne (Switzerland) to the University of Nankin (China) and the University of Warsaw (Poland) and University of Queensland (Australia), fifteen institutions of international reputation were represented during the last edition.

Photo credit: © IPTNET