In late May, 23 of the most talented physics students from high schools around the country came to the nation's capitol. These students had competed against hundreds of their peers to earn a place on the 2003 U.S. Physics Olympiad Team, and were in town for a week-long training camp at the University of Maryland. While they were here, they participated in a "Tribute to the U.S. Physics Olympiad Team 2003" Capitol Hill ceremony at which Members of Congress, federal officials and Member Society officers honored their accomplishments and wished them well. At the end of the training camp, the top five students were selected to represent the Team in international competition.
Representatives Vern Ehlers (R-MI) and Rush Holt (D-NJ), both physicists, co-hosted the May 20 reception and ceremony on Capitol Hill for the Team members and their parents and teachers. During the reception, a number of the students had an opportunity to meet and receive congratulations from their Members of Congress. The Team heard words of welcome and inspiration from Reps. Ehlers and Holt; Norman Neureiter, Science and Technology Adviser to the Secretary of State; David Bohlin, Deputy Associate Administrator for Science at NASA; and Peter Faletra, Assistant Director for Workforce Development for Teachers and Scientists in DOE's Office of Science. The keynote speaker for the event was James Mather, the James Webb Space Telescope Senior Project Scientist from NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center, who shared with the Team members some results of his research into the physics of the early universe. The American Association of Physics Teachers (AAPT), the American Institute of Physics (AIP), and NASA's Office of Space Science sponsored the event.
Since 1986, AAPT and AIP, with support from other societies, have recruited, selected, and trained teams to compete in the International Physics Olympiad. This year the International Physics Olympiad is scheduled to be held in Taipei, Taiwan. Due to concerns about Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS), the competition has been postponed until August 2-11, and a decision on whether the U.S. Team will participate has not yet been made.
In conjunction with the Physics Team's visit to Maryland and the Capitol Hill ceremony and reception, AAPT and AIP sent a brief policy statement to all Members of Congress. The statement calls on Members to support the Math and Science Partnership programs in NSF and the Department of Education. Both programs are intended to build partnerships between university science, math or engineering departments, local school districts, state education agencies, and other stakeholders to improve K-12 science and math instruction. The text of the statement follows:
"To support K-12 science and math education, particularly programs that enable professional development for teachers and preparation of new teachers, we urge Congress to:
"- Provide the FY 2004 requested level of $200 million for the NSF Math and Science Partnerships, and
"- Provide at least $200 million for the Education Department Math and Science Partnerships, as progress toward full funding of $450 million."