Inaugural student-run Harker Physics Invitational draws over 100 attendees


Provided by Joe Li

International Physics Olympiad Gold Medalist and Harker alumnus Rishab Parthasarathy (‘22) delivers a keynote speech virtually to attendees of the inaugural Harker Physics Invitational (HPhI). The inaugural contest took place on Nov. 19, gathering over 100 participants virtually.

by Arjun Barrett, Managing Editor

The first-ever Harker Physics Invitational (HPhI) took place virtually on Nov. 19, gathering over 100 participants from both inside and outside Harker. The event featured an individual physics competition and a keynote speech before ending with an award ceremony.

HPhI is a new initiative started this year by the physics division of Physical Sciences Club. The organizers included juniors Joe Li, Aniketh Tummala, Gautam Bhooma and Sathvik Chundru, along with Alex Huang (10). Inspired by the success of similar competitions like the Harker Math Invitational and Harker Programming Invitational, the team hoped to bring similar attention to competitive physics with an event of their own.

“If you look in California, or even around the whole country, you can see a lot of math competitions and programming competitions for high schoolers,” Joe said. “But if you look at physics, you can’t find anything. That’s why we decided to host HPhI.”

The virtual event began with a brief orientation at 12:45 p.m. before the 90-minute individual competition, which started at 1 p.m. The contest, structured similarly to the F=ma exam, contained 28 multiple choice questions written by the organizers. The exam featured a wide range of problem difficulties, ranging from questions requiring basic AP Physics 1 knowledge up to entry level United States Physics Olympiad (USAPhO) problems. After the contest, International Physics Olympiad Gold Medalist and Harker alumnus Rishab Parthasarathy (‘22) delivered a keynote speech to nearly 120 students on participating in competitive physics as a high schooler. The award ceremony took place after a brief round of tiebreakers, with the top five competitors receiving gift certificates ranging from $10 to $50. Jerry Liu from Amador Valley High School won first prize with 23 correct answers, and Catherine Li (11) performed the best out of around 15 Harker competitors with a score of 18.

“It was fundamentally a student-led project,” Gautam said. “We mentioned it to our club advisor, and we asked help for advertising, but we reached out to speakers on our own. And the five of us made all of the problems ourselves, tested them, and then emailed a bunch of people to let them know that HPhI was happening.”

HPhI is now the premier annual event for Physical Sciences Club’s physics division, but the club plans to host more science-related speaker events and club meetings throughout the second semester, including astrophysics and chemistry events in the coming weeks.

“Overall, [HPhI] was a really fun experience,” Aniketh said. “I’m surprised it went so smoothly for its first year; everything was as we’d planned.”