McGill-Toolen physics students triumph for 2nd year in a row

Modeler Tim Burgess’ team of physics students took top honors in the University of Alabama High School Physics Competition again this year. Tim made a deal with the team that, if they won, he would shave his head. He had to do that, two years in a row, because the team won. Read about it at

3 thoughts on “McGill-Toolen physics students triumph for 2nd year in a row”

  1. Tim Burgess is a long-time physics teacher and Modeling Workshop leader. He credits his students’ success to the pcb sequence and Modeling Instruction. His webpage on Physics First and the pcb sequence gives powerful evidence that the pcb sequence is more effective than the bcp sequence, when Modeling Instruction is used. It is

    Tim’s school is holding two Modeling Workshops in summer 2014. Tim will lead the mechanics workshop, and Dennis Glass will lead the chemistry workshop. See the AMTA workshops page for a link to his registration site, and/or visit and click on “Modeling Workshops” for detailed descriptions. — Jane Jackson

  2. I just want to clarify that the Physics Team meets after school (regular assistance on Wednesdays and Advanced assistance on Mondays after school). The classroom (Honors freshman physics classes) are 87% modeling (all but 1 of the 8 units use material heavily and exclusively from the Modeling Materials at a breathless rate). Students are expected to use representational diagrams, articulate conclusions from paradigm labs and converse about what they are learning!
    I see modeling as preparing the soil for the comprehension. The team has developed unique insights and intuitions based on class experiences. They drill on mundane problems after school but the separation from the other 40 or 50 teams comes with key “sorter questions” at the competition that CAN NOT be drilled. The deep comprehension fostered by modeling is the key to the novel questions that sort out the best each year.
    There is also luck involved too. My hair and beard are just collateral damage. Not all the teachers at our school use modeling but every student who has won has come form a modeling class. FYI

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