Problems for the 2012 US Invitational YPT

This webpage provides the official USAYPT problem statements for the 2012 Problems
and provides access to the USAYPT "Getting Started Guides" for each of the problems.

The Getting Started Guides are very brief introductions to the
problems' theory, experiment, and safety considerations as well as thoughts from participating teachers around the country throughout the year,
to assist teachers as they begin the research process with their students.
(Part of the process is to review the Requirements and Guidelines for Professional Conduct with your students).

These Getting Started Guides ARE NOT APPROVED SOLUTIONS.
The USAYPT does not provide nor maintain approved solutions to any USIYPT problem.
Original theories, experimental investigations, apparatus, etc. above, beyond, and not included in these Guides is an expected part of the research year, culminating in the Young Physicists Tournament where each team must defend their work to their peers.

Teachers are encouraged to ask questions and post suggestions to the
USAYPT Problem Master by email (
All questions and responses will be posted to the Guide webpage anonymously throughout the research year.


1. Astroblaster: When a large ball is dropped, with a smaller one stacked on top of it, onto a hard surface, the smaller ball will often rise much higher than it would if dropped onto the same surface by itself. Investigate this phenomenon and design a multiple-ball system, using up to four balls, that will reach the greatest elevation for the top ball.

2. Pinhole Camera:  Study the characteristics of a pinhole camera and find the conditions for the camera to achieve optimum image quality. (This image is the earliest published illustration of a pinhole camera.)

3. Candle Brightness: Why do most candles have about the same brightness?

4. Energy Converter: Build an apparatus that charges a 1farad capacitor as completely as possible by utilizing the energy "released" by a 1 kg mass that falls from a height of 2 meters. You must develop at least two different methods for converting the energy of fall to an electrical potential. Evaluate the efficiencies of your converters.