Vicphysics Teachers’ Network established a competition for Year 10 Science and Year 11 physics students. In the course of the year, in teams of three, students will carry out three experimental investigations, then later in the year, present and defend their findings in scientific discussions with other teams. They also critique the presentation of other teams.

The tournament was last conducted in 2017. It will be held again in 2021 on Sunday, 12th September at the University of Melbourne.

The problems for investigation in 2021 are:

  • Conical Piles Non-adhesive granular materials can be poured such that they form a cone-like pile. Investigate the parameters that affect the formation of the cone and the angle it makes with the ground.
  • Saxon Bowl A bowl with a hole in its base will sink when placed in water. The Saxons used this device for timing purposes. Investigate the parameters that determine the time of sinking
  • Falling Tower: Identical discs are stacked one on top of another to form a freestanding tower. The bottom disc can be removed by applying a sudden horizontal force such that the rest of the tower will drop down onto the surface and the tower remains standing. Investigate the phenomenon and determine the conditions that allow the tower to remain standing.

Important Dates:

Registration of Teams closes: Friday, 23rd July. See details at the bottom of this webpage.
Tournament Date: Sunday 12th September from 9:00am until 3:30pm.
A flyer to promote the event in schools.


Physics Dept, University of Melbourne


There will be a trophy for the school of the winning team.
There will be book prizes and book vouchers for the members of the top three teams, as well as book vouchers for the members of all other teams.

Your role

The role of the teacher has several phases:

  • Promoting the event: The activity involves the students conducting their own investigations, working in a team and competing against other teams, with obvious personal benefits. Year 11 students can do the investigations as part of the Unit 2 Investigations Area of Study, or if that topic is being done in Unit 4, the problems provide ample scope for extension.
  • Guiding the students: You may need to oversee the plans, etc, but there is no expectation that you personally supervise their experimental work. The students may conduct their work at lunch time, in a science club, after school or even at home.
  • Liaising with the mentor: A mentor is available to assist the students, see details below. You will need to be present when the students and the mentor are talking over matters, whether in person or online. Also if the students have follow up email queries for the mentor they will need to be forwarded through you.
  • Being on the judging panel: There needs to be a teacher for every two teams registered. Their role on the competition day is to judge the contests as a member of a panel of three. There will be six rounds of contests. The teachers are likely to be the chairs of the panels as some of the other panel members will be university students. See details on judging below.

The 2021 Physics Teachers’ Conference had a workshop on VYPT. The video of the panel discussion is available here. The panel included Michael Rosenbrock from Wodonga Senior Secondary College, Deepa Jain from Kew High School and Michael Pearce from the University of Melbourne, with moderator, Dan O’Keeffe from Vicphysics. Both Michael Rosenbrock and Deepa have looked after VYPT teams before. Michael Pearce participated as a student, then mentored students at his old school and has been instrumental in the involvement of the University of Melbourne and promoting the event to university students.

Videos of the Tournament

At the 2014 Victorian Young Physicists’ Tournament, Terry Tan from John Monash Science School videoed the competition as did some of the other teachers. Terry has edited the footage into two packages, i) a short one using extracts from different contests to show the key features of a contest and ii) a longer one of one complete contest. See links below.

Short video of Victorian Young Physicists’ Tournament
A longer video of Victorian Young Physicists’ Tournament

The Vicphysics Committee appreciates the tremendous amount of work by Terry in chasing up school approvals and then editing the material into these packages.

Organisation of a Tournament

Each team will compete in six contests, three to present and three to critique.

Each contest will be judged by a panel of 3 people, which will include at least one of the teachers accompanying one of the other teams. At the end of the contest, the judges are encouraged to ask questions of both teams before each deciding on their scores.

Each contest lasts about 30 minutes. There are specified time limits for different sections within the 30 minutes to ensure comparable judging.

The six contests proceed through the day starting about 9:30am and finishing about 3:30pm. All judges will have at least one contest off.

Regulations of the Physics Tournament 37.9 kB

The regulations include sections on team membership and supervision, the jury, description of team roles in a contest, and the sequence of a stage in a contest.

Tournament PowerPoint 226 kB

The Powerpoint from the workshop at the 2014 Physics Teachers Conference.

Judging criteria 59.9 kB

Assessment criteria to be used by the judges for VYPT contests. There is a separate criteria sheet for each of the roles of Reporter and Opponent.

Expectations of judges

Judges are not expected to be experts in the topics the students have investigated. The emphasis is on their use of experimental methods. However it is useful if the judges have thought about each of the topics prior to the day, deciding what might be relevant independent variables and how they might go about designing an investigation.

A look through the assessment criteria is also useful.


University students who will be assisting with judging will also be invited to be mentors. A mentor will be available for each team. They will be able to spend two one hour sessions, either online or face to face, with the team over the course of the investigations. The teacher will be the intermediary for contact and will always need to be present.

Live Streaming

Inspiring Victoria has provided funds to enable some of the contests to be live streamed. One contest in each of the six time slots will be live streamed. Teachers will need to indicate when registering their teams if the students are happy to be of the video presentation. Monash Tech School will be conducting the live stream.

Registration of Teams

Only schools can register teams. There is no limit on the number of teams a school can register, but the school must nominate teachers to be a judge, with one teacher for every two teams.
There is a cost to register a team. $20 per team for Vicphysics subscribers and $40 per team for non-subscribers. To obtain the discounted fee, the person completing the registration needs to the owner of a current Vicphysics subscription.
The names of the three students, their Year levels and any dietary preference must be included at registration.
Click here to go the webpage to register all the details. Once this has been done, payment is made through ‘My Cart’ at the top right of the screen.

Parents and friends can also attend for $20 per person. Click here to book an audience ticket.

Lunch will be provided as well as morning and afternoon teas.

A travel subsidy will be available to assist schools in regional areas with transport to Melbourne.