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AAPT High School Physics Contest


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For many years this contest has provided teachers and students an opportunity to learn about the physics behind natural and contrived situations by creating visual and written illustrations of various physical concepts.  Students compete in an international arena with more than 1,000 of their peers for recognition and prizes.

Sponsored in part by Vernier Software & Technology

Supported by the Committee on Physics in High Schools and the Committee on Educational Technologies.

Disclaimer: The accuracy of the photo essays submitted by the High School students in their explanation of the physics demonstrated by the photo is the responsibility of the students and their teachers. AAPT does not subject the essays to peer review.

The copyright to all photos submitted for this contest belongs to AAPT.  Use of the photos from the website for educational purposes is permitted.  However, all other print or digital use requires permission.


The contest is open to high school students in grades 9-12 (or equivalent international grade level). Entries are welcome every year between March 1 and May 15 for that year's competition.

Photos may be entered in one of two categories described below, and will be judged on the quality of the photo and the accuracy of the physics in the explanation that accompanies the photograph.

Category Examples


Natural photo


Contrived Photo


Photo with Multiple Images

  • Natural photos are those that involve everyday situations that may demonstrate a variety of physics concepts.
  • Contrived photos are those that are set up to show a particular physics concept or related set of concepts.
  • Photos with Multiple Images or other computer manipulation will be placed in a separate category. They may be displayed at the national meeting and judged for Special Recognition ribbons, but not for prizes.

For additional information and suggestions for classroom use contact


Judging of the photos is done in two stages.
  1. A committee of physics teachers will select the top 100 photos from the total entries received. (scoring approximately 40% essay and 60% photograph)
  2. The top 100 photos (50 Contrived, 50 Natural, plus any chosen with Multiple Images) will be displayed and judged at the next AAPT Summer Meeting to determine the final winners.
  3. Winning entries receive awards as follows:
  • Student 1st place $100 and a certificate
  • Student 2nd place $75 and a certificate
  • Student 3rd place $50 and a certificate
  • Teachers of 1st, 2nd, and 3rd place students receive a $100 gift certificate from Vernier and a certificate.
When entering students must:
  • Follow all rules of the contest (these may be printed by clicking on CONTEST RULES below)
  • Notification will occur during the summer. A permanent student and teacher email address is required for each submission.
  • Teachers must register online first and will be given a payment confirmation code that the students will then use to register.
  • Students will register online by typing in the confirmation code received from their teacher and filling in the required information.
  • Provide a digital version of the photo by uploading the digital file of the photo during on-line registration.
  • Complete the registration by clicking REVIEW, make any corrections needed, select submit the form and receive a designated number for the contest.
  • Print out a hard copy of the registration by clicking on PRINT VERSION and then PRINT which will automatically print out a copy of the registration and a copy of the Submission Checklist and Entry Agreement, both of which must be included with the entry.
  • Sign the Submission Checklist and Entry Agreement and mail the photo, printed registration form and signed entry agreement to:

    Tommi Holsenbeck
    5062 County Rd 13
    Hardaway, AL 36039


Registration Information (March 1 - May 15)

Step One:  Teachers must register online first and they will be provided with a payment confirmation code that the students will use to complete the registration process. (There is a $5 charge per photo for non-members and AAPT members can submit an unlimited amount of photos free of charge).

Step Two:  Students will use the payment confirmation code provided by their teachers to go online and register and upload their photo. 

Step Three:  Students must mail their photo, registration form and signed entry agreement to the address listed above.

  1. Teacher Registration
  2. Student Registration

If you have any questions regarding your registration, please contact programs@aapt.org.

General Information
  • Addresses are used for sending prizes. Email addresses and phone numbers are used for notification of entry receipt and clarification of any problems. The information will NOT be sold, distributed, or otherwise used for marketing purposes.
  • Entrant grants AAPT all rights to the photos by signing the Submission Checklist and Entry Agreement. Submissions will not be returned
  • Any submission which does not meet the criteria listed in the rules will not be considered.

Student Contest Rules

Checklist and Entry Agreement


Any questions regarding the contest should be directed to Tommi Holsenbeck by email attholsenbeckhsphoto@gmail.comRegistration questions should be directed to programs@aapt.org.

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