How to begin your IPT journey
To begin your IPT journey, you must join or create a team that meets the following criteria: 3-6 Team Members (Bachelor or Master level) and up to 2 Team Leaders (PhD or higher). Please refer to the rules page for more details.
As soon you have ideas how to create a team or you want to join one contact your country’s national representative. They could provide information on the currently active teams in your country or give hints how to register your team. Joining an existing team offers a streamlined and experienced environment. In case your country does not have a national representative or you are unable to reach them, you can always contact us directly (but only do after considering contact your local representative).
If you decide to create a team on your own, this guide will outline the main steps for a successful effort.
Step 1: Read the rules
A brief reading of the rules can help you familiarize yourself with the innovative format of the IPT. We describe the mail componenets of the format on our concept page. Technical details may not be your first priority, but they can help you get a grasp of how to operate, as well as to where you should give most emphasis in your upcoming effort. You can also study previous years problems’ solutions as well as view previous years finals.
Step 2: Learn the dates
The IPT is a year-round effort, with important events such as the national and international preselection stages, before the main event. Missing one of those events can lead to your team being unable to join. The exact dates vary each year, and are announced gradually through the year with regards to both participants and hosting institutions, so check the calendar page and social media to be sure to be up to date with the date!
Step 3: Reach out
The IPT is a team effort through and through. These are some of the main audiences you should try to reach:
- New members. Although the participating team must be comprised of 6 members, the team that prepares the problem solutions can be greater in number. You need all the help you can get, so try contacting individuals with a similar passion for physics, university student science clubs and colleagues who would be excited to join. Use our promo pack to get better reach and engagement.
- Past members. Experience is valuable, especially in a competitive setting. Past members can give you their unique perspective on team work, strategy and general approach, as well as describe their overall experience with the IPT. Similarly, your country’s national representative, if your country has one, can guide you and your newly founded team and/or help you connect with previous participants.
- Team Leaders and Institution: Teams are strongly advised and required to have at least one Team Leader who should be at a PhD or higher level. The Team Leader’s role is not to solve the problems but to provide the team with guidance. More specifics about this role can be found here. Parallel to this, coming in contact with your Institution, can help you get funding and support, in terms of experience, access to laboratory equipment, space to conduct your experiments and meetings and academic recognition.
- Sponsors: Funds are needed for covering the registration fee, experimental materials and travel expenses. Finding a sponsor, be it your own institution, corporations or crowd funding, can alleviate your financial cares and help you focus on the fun of the Tournament. Starting out early is key, as last minute funding application are hard to be covered.
Step 4: Register
Having created your team, and ready to take on the challenge, you should get ready to participate in the national selection and international preselection before reaching the finals. If your country has more than one team, a national preselection is required to determine which team will represent it.
You should inform your representative well in advance, so they can take care of the logistics of organizing the national preselection, an event that can either take place as an in-person miniature national IPT, or follow the pattern of the international preselection by way of written report. Either way, it is beneficial to everyone to declare your intention early, so that all parties are informed of the timeline to follow.
Similarly, should you win at your national selection, or not be required to have one, you should register for the international preselection stage. As mentioned above, to do so, you simply have to inform your national representative, or if you do not have one, contact the execom.
Step 5: Work on the Problems
It goes without saying that methodical work on the problems is the most crucial part of a successful IPT run. Every team has a different style of execution, assigning different problems to small groups, working on each problem individually or instead together as a whole. Depending on the available number of team members, the distribution of work and their respective experience and level, a team may chose to spend more time on specific problems while completely disregarding others.
While there is no set number of problems required to participate, it is highly crucial to work on the problems of the national selection or, if there is no national selection, at least one of the international preselection problems, as you will be required to provide their solution to secure your spot in the Tournament. Other than those limitations the quantity of problems as well as the quality of work on each of them is totally up to your team. It is important to note however, that having a small number of solved problems can possibly result to heavy grade penalties when operating as a reporter, while not being familiar with the solution of a problem can be a great hindrance to the role of the opponent and reviewer. The specifics of these roles can be found here. Finding the golden ration between available workhours and team members against number and quality of problem solutions can be a make or break point of a successful run.
Regardless of the style of group or solo approach, or the amount of problems and extent of their study, there are some key points that every team must make sure to follow:
- Research existing literature. This may include finding references in peer reviewed papers and academic manuscripts, studying similar already investigated phenomena and being able to utilize this information to establish a solid supporting theory.
- Construct a theoretical model. Based on the previous suggestion, but also through novel theoretical investigation and original research, the team must be able to craft a theoretical model to describe the studied phenomenon. The theoretical model in most of the cases is dependent on some important parameters (a phrase usually incorporated in the problem statement). Deducing the important parameters and their physical relation to the phenomenon as well as each other can be the cornerstone for a successful theoretical model. While an effort is to be made for the model to be as accurate as possible, it is also important to be aware and specify its limitations, as well as the reasons it performs better in some conditions than others.
- Build an experimental setup. Having established a working theory on the phenomenon, the team must try to measure the expected correlations between the suspected important parameters and/or physical attributes. This can range from a full reconstruction of the phenomenon, to smaller setups where parts of the phenomenon can be simulated. Often the problem statement itself requires the construction of a setup, with specific goals of investigating the feasibility to construct the proposed setup or optimize an existing one.
- Compare experimental to theoretical results. The experimental results must be analyzed and presented in a careful manner, paying attention to error bars, plotted on a graph if possible and compared against the predictions made by the theoretical model. How close does the theoretical prediction match the experimental points? Why does it match perfectly/doesn’t match at all at some parameter spaces? What corrections on the theoretical model or experimental setup can improve the accuracy of the prediction?
- Improve your model and setup. Comparing the experimental and theoretical results, as mentioned above, can provide you with valuable clues as to how to improve the quality of your model and setup. From small tweaks to the theory, to remaking the entire experimental setup, the methodical reworking of the problem can dramatically increase the quality of the solution and more often than not reveal hidden information that was not apparent at the start of the study. Additionally you can try to digitally simulate the phenomenon, comparing or incorporating the theoretical model to the simulation, and analyzing the produced results.
- Know and state your limitations. More often than not, either because of budget, time or because of physical constraints not every important parameter can be investigated, neither every theoretical prediction be confirmed, nor every setup be constructed. Knowing how to allocate your effort and budget, and acknowledging your shortcomings is as important as emphasizing the strengths of your solution. Proposing ideas for future improvement, especially in the areas where your theoretical model is inaccurate, or your experimental setup inadequate, can emphasize your understanding of the problem while leaving open the possibility of further work and potentially new future information.
Step 6: National Selection
The National Selection is a competition between different teams of the same country to find out who will represent the country in the International Preselection and subsequently in the Tournament. The number of problems required to compete, as well as the format, be it a Tournament simulation or by written report as in the International Preselection, same as some partial modifications to these processes are decided by aligning the general IPT Rules with the specific circumstances and capacity of each country. It is important then, to notify your IOC Representative as early as you can about your want to participate in the National Selection, so the according arrangements can be made.
Preparing the problem(s) for the National Selection is beneficial as they are also corresponding to problems in the International Preselection. Feedback acquired through this process can help you shape up your problem solution and fortify its weak points.
Of course a National Selection is not required if there is only one team in the country or if the multiple teams of the country decide to co-operate, joining into a singular entry (retaining the limitation of 6 team members representing the country).
Step 7: International Preselection
Similarly to the National Selection, the International Preselection determines the countries that will be competing at the Tournament. The teams are required to provide a 5-page pdf paper containing their problem solution with a specific form.
The number of countries that can join depends on a lot of factors such as the ability of the hosting country to accommodate them. As a rule, the countries that rank 1-7 in the previous year’s Tournament do not take part in the International Preselection, but rather earn a reserved spot.
After the results of the International Preselection are announced the winning teams are finally ready to register for the in-person Tournament, while the required fee is to be deposited. In final stretch, before the Tournament begins, the teams work hard to refine their problem solutions, prepare and rehearse their presentations and get ready to compete.
Step 8: Tournament
The Tournament is the grand accumulation of all the aforementioned efforts to get this far. Meeting with teams from around the world, discussing, debating and competing on the problem solutions, while visiting top educational institutions and laboratories.
A similar guide to this, regarding how to perform on the Tournament, the different roles and responsibilities of the players, as well as the general rules can be found at the concept page.