Physics Bowl Contest

Physics Bowl Competition

The goal:

The Physics Bowl Contest held annually at Lagoon searches for Intermountain West high school students with the greatest knowledge of physics. Each year USU professors generate questions to test your most knowledgeable students. Teams from dozens of high schools compete in a quiz bowl format, trying to correctly answer questions as quickly as possible while competing with another team. Each correct answer accumulates points and the team with the most points WINS!

A Challenge to Prepare for Lagoon:

To prepare for the Physics Bowl held during USU Physics Day at Lagoon, your students might like to enter another national quiz bowl competition. The American Association of Physics Teachers sponsors an annual Physics Bowl held about six weeks prior to Physics Day. Each year, approximately 10,000 students take a 40-question, 45-minute timed, multiple-choice test under their school's supervision, with questions similar in format and content to those posed at Lagoon. More information can be found here.

Rules and Procedures:

  1. Registration for Physics Bowl takes place at Lagoon on Physics Day. You should pre-register on the web. It is usually impossible for us to accommodate any registration after 10:15 a.m., so please plan accordingly.
  2. A team consists of up to three (3) high school students with one student designated "captain." Normally, a school may enter up to two (2) teams but if there is still room on the roster, additional teams may be allowed.
  3. The Physics Bowl can accommodate 32 teams. If more than 32 teams are present, a preliminary round consisting of written questions will determine 32 teams for the roster. This round will begin promptly at 10:00 am. Team members may consult together on the questions. Rule 5 holds for the quiz. This quiz will take no more than 10 minutes. If there are a number of open slots on the roster with more than that number of tied scores on the quiz, the remaining teams will be chosen by random selection from the teams with tied scores. The roster of teams with times and places for each contest will be posted as soon as possible. If fewer than 32 teams are present, the top scoring (losing) teams from round 1 may be retained to fill the roster for round 2. All winning teams will be retained regardless of score. “Seeding” by score will be used in round 2 to determine which teams will compete.
  4. Teams not present within 2 minutes of the scheduled time will forfeit. A team is considered present if at least one team member is present and "ready to go."
  5. Pencil and paper are permitted. No calculators, books or other reference materials are permitted. No conversation with the audience is permitted during the competition.
  6. Each student has a button. The first button depressed will sound a buzzer, turn on a light identifying the contestant, and turn off all other buzzers. Before the contest begins, students will test their buzzers (See our design to build your own Contest Buzzer Set).
  7. USU will provide moderators. The moderator will first announce the value of the question. Questions will be worth between 5 and 30 points.
  8. Next, the moderator will begin reading the question. At any time during or after the reading a contestant may push the button. The question will be thrown out if there is no attempt at an answer when 15 seconds have elapsed after the complete question has been read. At the moment the buzzer sounds the moderator will stop reading. Contestants may not consult with one another once the buzzer sounds.
  9. The contestant will have 15 seconds to answer the question. The moderator will announce "correct" or "incorrect." If correct, a scorekeeper will add the points to give a total score. There are no deductions for incorrect answers.
  10. If the answer of the contestant is incorrect, the moderator will finish reading the question. The opposing team members will then have 15 seconds to consult together, after which the team captain will give their answer.
  11. A team captain can appeal an incorrect answer (a maximum of two appeals for each contest). Fifteen seconds are allowed to justify the appeal. The moderator consults with the scorekeeper (or other designated official) to determine the result of the appeal, which is then announced. This decision is final.
  12. The contest continues for 12 minutes during the first two rounds and for 20 minutes during the last three rounds, or until all questions but one for that round have been used, whichever occurs first.
  13. If the score is tied at the end, an additional question is asked. If the score remains tied, questions from a default bank are asked, one at a time, until a winner is determined.

Sponsored by:


Utah State University
USU Admissions Office
USU Bookstore

  • Updated 2/28/2014 - Utah State University Physics Department
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