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Released April 19, 2004



HATTIESBURG - High school physics students will put their theories to the test in a competition sponsored by The University of Southern Mississippi April 7.

Students from five South Mississippi high schools - Hancock, Harrison Central, Picayune, St. Stanislaus and Vancleave - are participating in the annual event, hosted by the Southern Miss Department of Physics and Astronomy.

Conducted in two parts, the competition consists of written examinations that test teams' understanding of physics theory. From there, it's all downhill as teams try to calculate the precise distance a ball will travel when rolled down a ramp in the competition's hands-on portion.

"This competition gives students the chance to test their knowledge of physics, and it's a chance for them to see what we do here at Southern Miss," said Dr. Joe Whitehead, associate professor and chair of the department.

According to rules, written proposals for the "projectile launch" had to be calculated and turned in at least one week before the actual contest. Nine teams of three members each worked on the written solutions, which count for 70 percent of each team's score. Each high school will field two teams, except for Picayune, which is fielding one.

There are three restrictions to this event: Any angle may be used between 0-15 degrees and 35 degrees; Any release height may be used between 40 centimeters and 100 centimeters. On the day of the competition, all adjustments and measurements must be performed within a 10-minute time period.

"Students take this object and roll it down an incline," Whitehead said. "They've already predicted how far from the plane the ball will land.

"They've already sent us their written proposals weeks in advance. Then, according to their calculations, they'll place a marker at the location they think it will land and we measure how close they are."

Sponsored by the Mississippi NASA space grant consortium, the contest will award individual trophies for the examination portion as well as the "projectile launch" portion. Each participant will receive a T-shirt and certificate. The competition starts at 8 a.m. in the Bobby Chain Technology Building, room 106.

The competition allows different types of students to show their strengths, Whitehead said. "We switched from a traditional lab type of test of several solutions to an actual test where you prove something using physics concepts," he said. "They take concepts and manipulate them and use them in real-life situations."

Whitehead added that students who did not perform as well on the written examinations in the past often excelled in the applications portion, and vice versa.

"This way it gives all students a chance to do well," Whitehead said.


OCEAN SPRINGS -- Award-winning wildlife photographer Tom Ulrich will lead two photographic events at the Gulf Coast Research Laboratory on Wednesday, March 10.

He will present a nature photography workshop from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. and then a talk and slide show called "Wildlife Images 2003" at 7 p.m., both at The University of Southern Mississippi GCRL.

Admission to the evening event is free and will be held in the Caylor Auditorium at GCRL. The veteran photographer will feature photos from his 2003 photographic safaris abroad and in North America. He will answer questions and sign his books during the reception following his slide show.

The registration fee for the all-day workshop is $50 per person, payable to GCRL. Registration includes a continental breakfast, light lunch and snacks. Participation is limited to 20. Though the workshop is geared toward beginners, Ulrich tailors the experience to meet needs for all degrees of skill.

"The beginners will definitely benefit from the workshop, but I always help the more advanced get something out of it also," Ulrich said. "I lead many photo trips and always find a wide range of levels."

Ulrich said participants do not need to bring their photographic equipment unless they need an explanation about some aspect of their equipment.

Topics include a brief review of the principles of photography, relationships between shutter and aperture settings, fundamental elements of composition, use and timing of fill-in flash, digital versus film photography, techniques of close-up photography, and a brief discussion of slide etiquette, the photography business and marketing.

Ulrich grew up in South Chicago, graduated with a degree in biology from Southern Illinois University and taught for four years before launching his career as a freelance photographer. He has supported himself with nature photography for the past 29 years.

His library of more than 300,000 transparencies includes birds and mammals from all over the world. His photographs have been featured in publications such as National Wildlife, Audubon, National Geographic, Montana Outdoors and Life.

He has published six nature books, including Mammals of the Rockies, Birds of the Northern Rockies, Once Upon a Frame and his 2002 release, Photo Pantanal. Dr. William E. Hawkins, GCRL executive director, said Ulrich brings the scientific and artistic worlds together.

"Tom earns his living photographing wildlife all over the world," Hawkins sad. "He is an outstanding observer and a biologist. His approach to photography is to capture his subjects exhibiting their natural behavior."

The GCRL is home to the university's Department of Coastal Sciences, the Center for Fisheries Research and Development, and the Gulf Coast Geospatial Center. The J.L. Scott Marine Education Center and Aquarium is also a unit of the laboratory. The GCRL is part of the Southern Miss College of Science and Technology. For more information, call the laboratory at (228) 872-4200.


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April 20, 2004 4:09 PM