Department of Physics

Physics Competition

Iowa Physics Competition


ANNOUNCEMENT: The State of Iowa Physics Competition will NOT be held in Spring 2021 due to COVID-19 restrictions. We look forward to hosting the competition next year on-campus.  



The State of Iowa Physics Competition has been revised for 2019-2020 to include one open state competition that includes a preliminary and final rounds on the same day with the preliminary round in the morning and the final round in the afternoon. The preliminary round replaces the regional competition to be used as a qualifier for the final round for the state competition. Regional competitions may still be held for teams to practice for the state competition but the teams still must qualify in the preliminary round on the day of the state competition to move onto the final round. Each participating school will be allowed to bring up to 3 entries per event (or 3 event teams) for the State of Iowa Physics Competition preliminary round and those who qualify will move onto the final round. A school's highest scoring event team per event will be used to determine a school's overall competition score. See rules for details.

The State of Iowa Physics Competition is a series of five physics events for high school (Grades 9-12) students. The competition stresses creativity and ingenuity as well as an understanding of physics related principles and is intended to stimulate interest in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM). The competition emphasizes the scientific and engineering practices found in the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) and participation in the competition integrated with appropriate instruction can address the Iowa Core.

The 2020 State Physics Competition will be held on Tuesday, April 7, 2020 at the University of Northern Iowa (UNI) McLeod Center in Cedar Falls with registration beginning at 8:30 am. The preliminary round for events will begin at 9:30 am with the final round in the afternoon with the competition to tentatively end at 4:30 pm. Tours, exhibits, demonstrations, and possibly other activities are being planned during the day. 

The bullets below will be links to the information provided when they become available: 

Physics students competing in competitionThe State of Iowa Physics Competition is hosted by the UNI Physics Department and coordinated by Dr. Larry Escalada ( Please feel free to contact Larry if you have any questions about the competition. All teams that compete in the State Competition must complete and submit the above registration to Larry Escalada by 11:59 pm on April 3, 2020. Check payments and cash will be accepted on the day of the competition. See registration form for details.

The tentative events (which may change) for the 2020 competition include the following:

  • Catapult,
  • Mouse trap car,
  • Bridge building,
  • Soda straw arm, and
  • Measurement 

Students will use a variety of everyday, inexpensive materials such as mousetraps, compact discs, rubber bands, toothpicks, straws, etc. to build their devices to accomplish specific tasks (catapult, mouse trap car, toothpick bridge, and soda straw arm); and will determine the measurement and uncertainty for a given object (measurement). The Vernier Structures & Materials Tester (pictured below) is the testing device that will be used for the toothpick bridge at the state competition. See rules for the specific details for each event.    

students participating in soda straw event