The International Young Physicists’ Tournament (IYPT), sometimes referred to as the “Physics World Cup”, is a scientific competition between teams of secondary school students. It mimics, as close as possible, the real-world scientific research and the process of presenting and defending the results obtained.
Participants have almost a year to work on 17 open-ended inquiry problems. A good part of the problems involves easy-to-reproduce phenomena presenting unexpected behaviour.
The aim of the solutions is not to calculate or reach “the correct answer” as there is no such notion here. The Tournament is rather conclusions-oriented as participants have to design and perform experiments, and to draw conclusions argued from the experiments’ outcome.
The competition itself is not a pen-and-paper competition but an enactment of a scientific discussion (or a defence of a thesis) where participants take the roles of Reporter, Opponent and Reviewer and are evaluated by an international Jury.
The beauty of the Tournament is that teams can take quite different routes to tackle the same problem. As long as they stay within the broadly defined statement of the problem, all routes are legitimate and teams will be judged according to the depths reached by their investigations.
In 2013, IYPT was awarded the medal of the International Union of Pure and Applied Physics (IUPAP) in recognition of its inspiring and wide-ranging contribution to physics education that has touched many lives and countries, over the past 25 years.
The preparation for and the participation in the IYPT have a lot of advantages, from students’ and from teachers’ perspective. Some of these advantages will be listed here.
- Team Work: The structure of the tournament and of the preparation requires a high amount of team work. The ability to cooperate in an organized way as well as the ability to organize oneself’s own work is one of the most important soft-skills which are required by today’s economy.
- Knowledge: Of course working with the IYPT problems teaches a lot of scientific knowledge. This, however, is done quite differently than in usual science classes. Due to the more project-oriented and practical work the knowledge will be retained much longer. Furthermore one also learns how to apply the new knowledge.
- Research: Since IYPT problems are formulated in a very open way they offer a perfect way to accomodate oneself with the methods of scientific research. Working on IYPT problems can help in finding a way to deal with completely new questions and tasks.
- Rhetorical Skills: Rhetorical skills are one of the very important aspects of the IYPT. It is important to present the prepared solutions in a convincing and impressive way. Moreover one needs to be spontaneous to be able to react on the reports of others and to prepare an opponence speech and a discussion within very little time. The IYPT offers a possibilty to train how to sell oneself at best.
- Language Skills: Since the official language of the IYPT is English (which is a foreign language for most of the participants) it offers also a great opportunity to train language skills. In particular one learns a lot of technical terms and science English, which is usually not the case in regular classes.
- International Aspect: The IYPT is is an excellent chance to visit another country and to get to know young people from all over the world and possibly to form friendship.
The IYPT is a team-oriented competition. That means that in contrast to a lot of other competitions students do not compete alone and on their own but as a team. The participating teams have almost a year to prepare so-called “Reports” on 17 tasks, called “problems”. During the tournament teams present their reports and discuss and defend their solution against an opposing team. Presentation and discussion are then graded by a jury consisting of national and international experts. The whole competition is executed in English, since the IYPT is an international competition.
The precise course of the tournament might look a bit complicated at first glimpse. The following step-by-step introduction is intended to help you understanding the structure of the IYPT.
One of the most important aspects, if not the most important aspect of the tournament is the preparation phase. The problems of the IYPT are not tasks which can be solved within a short time with known methods, like in an exam. They are deliberately formulated in a more open way. They can be viewed from different angles and there are many ways to handle them. The task of the participants (together with their teamleader) during the preparation phase is to get as much knowledge about the problems as possible. There are no restrictions on how to do so. This kind of problems is intended to put the students in the same situation as a regular researcher is in. The solution to the problems and even the way how to get the solution is completely unknown.
The problems for the IYPT are published nearly a year before the tournament. That gives all participants enough time to do experiments, research literature and the internet, maybe talk to some experts, etc. Teamwork and organising ability certainly play an important role.
The preparation aims at two main goals: On the one hand it is important to gather as much background knowledge on the problems as possible. That is necessary to confidently defend a solution in a discussion against an opposing team or to try to find weaknesses in the presentation of another team. The other main goal is to prepare a well-structured Report of all the knowledge acquired.
The tournament itself consists of several rounds which are called “Physics Fights. The first five rounds are called the “Selective Fights”. They can be compared to the group phase of soccer competitions. All teams participate in five Selective Fights. The three teams with the highest total sum of points after the Selective Fights reach the Final Fight, which eventually determines the winning team.
The Selective Fights
At the beginning of the tournament the teams draw lots to form groups of three teams each. If the total number of teams is not divisible by three then one or two groups with four teams are formed.
Each of these groups then executes the first Selective Fight (in parallel). After that the teams change groups according to a scheme determined by the drawing of lots. This is necessary because otherwise there would be always the same teams competing in the same group. This procedure is repeated until all Selective Fights have been held.
The Structure of a Fight
A Fight. This is due to the fact that during one Stage each team has a specific role to play. These roles are exchanged after each Stages each team has played each role exactly once.
The roles are:
only in groups with four teams: Observer
The specific meaning of these roles will be explained together with the course of a Stage.
The Course of a Stage
A so-called “Fight, comparable e.g. to one single run of a skiing race. A Fight it is custom to have 5-15 minutes break, depending on how much time is available.
At the beginning of a Stage teams und jurors are introduced and the chairman of the jury reads out which team will play which role in this Stage.
After this informal part, the actual Stage begins. Its course is precisely regulated by the tournament regulations. Each of the phases which will be described here has a maximum duration. This maximum duration may not be exceeded. Usually, there is a special monitor available which displays a graphical representation of how much time is left in the current phase.
The explanations given in the next few paragraphs shall only illustrate the structure and course of the events in a Stage. For a more detailed overview of the Stage regulations please confer the official tournament regulations.
After the mentioned introduction, the Opponent-Team must challenge the Reporter-Team for one of the 17 tasks. Reporter-Team can accept or reject the challenge. If a team rejects a challenge too often during the whole tournament this team will lose some points.
If a problem has been selected the Reporter-Team has five minutes for preparation which are usually used to prepare notes, have a final look on the presentation or sometimes to prepare a live experiment for demonstration.
After the preparation time, the Reporter has a maximum of twelve minutes to present the Report. There are no formal requirements in which way exactly this has to be done.
After the presentation of the Report, the Opponent also gets a few minutes preparation time before taking the stage to present an estimation on the presentation done by the Reporter, stressing its pros and cons.
This speech by the Reporter tries to defend the solution and the Opponent tries to criticise it.
Afterwards the third team, the Reviewer-Team can ask questions to both other teams and then (after a short preparation) present an overview of the performance of the Opponent.
In the end the Reporter may present some final concluding remarks.
And finally the jurors may ask some short questions to all three teams. After that the perfomances of the teams in the current Stage.
Observer-Team does not take part actively in the course of the Observer role is to allow groups of four teams to be executed, if the total number of teams is not divisible by three.
After a short break another Stage with the same structure but exchanged roles of Teams begins. The teams exchange their roles until each team has been the Reporter exactly once.
There are some additional details worth mentioning:
All communication between the teams and the jury is done in English.
The team members may not communicate with outsiders (e.g. the teamleader) in the course of a Fight.
Apart from that all kinds of aids (literature, laptops, dictionaries, notes,…) are allowed.
Only one team member is active as Stage. That means that in general only this person represents the team during the Stage and talks for the team. Other team members are only allowed to make brief remarks or to assist with the presentation technically.
During one Fight no team member may be the active representative of the team more than twice. In other words: It is forbidden that the same person acts as Reporter, Opponent, and Reviewer in the same Fight.
If you are a student or a teacher in one of the countries listed here, you are lucky:there is someone in your country who organizes a local competition that selects a national team. Join, do well and become part of the national team for the IYPT!
If your country is not on that list, that means that the IYPT has no active member organization (IMO) in your country. Some countries have participated in the past but later withdrew, and some countries have never participated in the IYPT.
To participate with a team from such a country, you will need to fulfill several important conditions:
- organize a team of 5 students;
- find someone experienced with the IYPT who will come together with your team to the IYPT as an “endorser” and act as a team leader.
- Set up or find an organization that will apply to become the IYPT Member Organization (IMO), responsible for the selection of the countries national team.
Our rule says that a new team is brought by someone who has already been at the IYPT (as a juror, team leader, team member or observer). This endorser will be coaching the team together with a second team leader, and must guarantee to us that the team is reasonably well prepared. We expect that the endorser organizes a fair national selection and applies to become the IYPT Member Organization (IMO) as early as possible. The endorser should contact the IYPT organizers no later than in December prior to the IYPT, check the conditions and deadlines for pre-registration, and then pre-register the team before a deadline. Note that the deadline is many months prior to the competition, and more likely than not will be in January.
Usually, a country first sends an observer for an IYPT event and only the next year the observer comes with a team and introduces the IYPT in their country. The other option is to cooperate with someone experienced with IYPT from a different country (e.g. a former participant or leader who now studies or works abroad).
Our regulations state that “All members of the team must either be citizens of the country they represent, or be enrolled as students in a school of the country they represent”. Therefore if a student is enrolled in a school in country A and a citizen of country B, he or she has the option to participate as a member of either nation. There is no limit for citizenship or enrollment of team leaders.
Please understand that assembling a team, finding an endorser, preparing for the IYPT and solving the problems, and then securing the travel budget will be many months of hard work. We will be happy to provide advice in this respect and will be happy to see a new team. If you would like to have assistance or advice in your plan to form a new IYPT team, please contact us.
An IYPT Member Organization is a legal entity which is officially recognized by the IYPT to represent the IYPT-related interests of a country. In particular, IMOs determine the team and the IOC representative for their country at their discretion. For the selection of the team, an IMO has to set up an appropriate selection procedure which gives all interested students from the respective country a fair chance to compete for a seat in the country’s team.
IMOs gain their status by the vote of the IOC, after a motion of the IMO candidate. If the country in question already has an IOC representative, said representative must approve this motion.
Applications for IMO status can only be made by someone who participated in at least one of 5 most recent IYPTs either as an observer, team member, team leader, or juror. This condition is fulfilled even if the person in question represented a different country at that time. This person must support the application by taking over the position of a team leader of the team selected by the respective IMO.
An IMO loses its right to send an IOC representative after not sending a team to the IYPT in two subsequent years. Furthermore, in this case, other organizations of the country in question may apply for IMO status.
After applying for IMO status, an IMO candidate may nominate a team for the IYPT until the IOC decides their application at the following IOC meeting.
IMO status is usually granted for a period of 5 years, from the moment of approval by the IOC at the IOC meeting until the end of IYPT in the year of expiration. Without re-applying before the start of IOC meeting in the year of expiration, participation at the IOC meeting is not granted.
IMO Application Form
Please use the following form in order to file an Application for Recognition as an IYPT Member Organization (IMO) in accordance with Article 7, Section 1 of the Statutes of the International Young Physicists’ Tournament (IYPT).
Please send a copy via email to Secretary General Timotheus Hell firstname.lastname@example.org and bring the original (with signatures) to an IOC meeting. The email copy should also contain all required signatures.
The concept behind the IYPT originates from the former Soviet Union. After a tournament of that kind was executed there for quite a while the first international IYPT took place in 1988. After the collapse of the Soviet Union, the IYPT was carried out in other European countries as well, whereas the number of participating countries grew continuosely.
In 2004, the IYPT took place outside of Europe for the first time. Venue was Brisbane (Australia).
Meanwhile, the number of participating countries has grown to over 25. There are also representatives from every continent in the meantime.
In addition the IYPT has developed from a lose community of idealists into an officially registered corporation. In many countries, there are national organizations, corporations and associations now which organize qualification competitions and represent their respective countries in the committees of the IYPT. Some of these associations have also been officially and formally recognized by the IYPT in the meantime.
The IYPT is held in another country every year. The IOC decides which of the applying countries may inherit the holding. The organisation itself is then accomplished by the Local Organizing Committee (LOC).
MAP – where have been tournaments hosted iypt.org/About/History
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Those who support and attend the IYPT range from Nobel Prize winners and Ministers for science and education to some best-known leaders of industry, like Audi, Samsung, Daimler, or Nokia.
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They all see the IYPT as a focus of excellence that brings together bright minds, creativity, ideas, and fascination with science. IYPT participants themselves go on to become leaders in science and industry.
Supporting such a special group of young people is much more than sponsoring a media event.
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We would love to talk to you about how we can assist with your sponsorship activities and what our options would deliver the rewards you seek from such a partnership.
Feel the spirit of the IYPT in the documentary taken at the IYPT 2012 in Germany and in the teaser clip for the IYPT 2016 in Russia.
What does “IYPT” stand for?
“IYPT” stands for “International Young Physicists’ Tournament”. It is a team-oriented competition for secondary school students, sometimes also referred to as the “Physics World Cup”.
How do I pronounce “IYPT”?
As usual for acronyms, “IYPT” is pronounced letter by letter: I – Y – P – T. IPA: [a? wa? pi: ti:]
How can I participate in the IYPT?
Since the IYPT is a World Cup you must first contact the person responsible for Young Physicists’ Tournament in your country. (See List of IOC Members.) Most countries have some sort of qualification tournament. If there is no such person (i.e. your country has never participated in the IYPT before) you should contact the IYPT officials for further information.
Who can participate in the IYPT?
Each country may be represented by one team, consisting of five high school (secondary school) students. The participation of university students is not allowed. Each team is accompanied by one or two teamleaders.
Is it possible for single students to participate in the IYPT
No, that is not possibe. The IYPT is a team-oriented competition. Teams must consist of three to five students.
Who formulates the problems for the IYPT?
The problems are formulated by the International Organizing Committee (IOC). Each participating country suggests possible problems. The IOC then chooses from this pool of problems, maybe rewording them partially. The IOC takes care that not all the problems come from the same fields of physics.
What kind of resources may be used by the students during the IYPT?
Generally speaking, all kinds of resources are allowed. It is customary for the teams to use things like pocket calculators, dictionaries, laptops, literature, notes, etc. Everything is allowed. The only thing which is explicitly forbidden is the communication between the students and non-participants during the fights.
Which means of presentation will be present at the IYPT?
It depends on what the Local Organizing Committee can provide. Authoritative information can only be obtained by the LOC. Usual means of presentation are data-projectors (“beamers”), sometimes also overhead projectors and blackboards.
Why are there always exactly 17 problems?
An experienced IOC member once explained it in the following way: “Well,… You see, 16 would be too few, but 18 would be too many.”