2017 Explorer

Physics Unlimited's inaugural team-based Explorer Competition took place in November/December 2017.

Update: We have created a page listing brief descriptions of all 2017 Explorer Competition teams that have voluntarily submitted their information to us, including their original submissions where relevant.


2017 Explorer Competition assignment

Scores and ranking


Competitors were given one to two weeks to submit their solutions to one or both independent parts of the inaugural assignment. The two research-based topics were (1) Tidal Heating and (2) Relativistic Electrodynamics.

Submission stats
We received a total of 82 submissions (!) from teams located in over a dozen countries (counting each team's work on one of the two optional topics as a separate submission). Each team was comprised of up to a total of 6 high school students. The quality of work done by many teams was exceptionally high. Several teams submitted reports that could very likely be published as papers in a scientific journal. The number of pages in many submissions, often typed in LaTeX, exceeded 20-30.
To summarize, the judges were very pleasantly surprised by the level of skills shown here, and we are confident that most participants, whether or not they were awarded a prize, will find success in their future academic careers.

Total scores were tallied by adding the points received by teams on each subsection; a detailed breakdown of the points is available in this three-sheet Excel document.
Lists of teams ranked by the total number of points* received on each of the two parts, including their respective awards, if any, are available in the two PDF files linked on the top of this page.
*Please note that all teams listed above the bold red line in these documents have been recognized with Honorable Mention. The team rankings have been updated in February 2018 to account for tied scores. Original versions of team results can be found here (relativistic electrodynamics) and here (tidal heating).

Kinds of prizes
Please note that in addition to the conventional gold, silver, and bronze team medalist awards, the Top-10 certificates for each part, and the honorable mention certificates, there are also two subjective awards for each part: the most elegant solution and the most creative solution. These certificates will be given to teams judged to have used a particularly interesting, unique, or compact solution on one of the problems. Recipients of both of these types of awards are also listed in these files.

Necessary steps in order to receive the prizes
If you are the manager of a team who has been recognized with one of the listed prizes/certificates (are listed above the bold red line in the .pdf document or received one of the two types of subjective awards), we request you to please e-mail us at directors@physicsu.org the following information, with the subject line "2017 Explorer Competition: Team Info": As of February 28, 2018, we still have not heard from several teams. We anticipate mailing out and e-mailing the respective awards or certificates in March 2018, after receiving the above preferences from all recognized teams. Thank you for your cooperation.

We hope you have both enjoyed and were challenged by the Explorer Competition, and we encourage you to participate in our other recurring events, such as the academically rewarding PhysiKarma initiative.


We would like to extend huge thanks to this year's judges, Robert-Iulian Raveanu and Malin Stanescu, for their tireless efforts in grading all of the competitors' works.

Please see this Explorer Competition root page to view the assignments and results from previous years.