Physics IA Experience 2022
Twelve pages, several thousand words, and countless figures—the Physics Internal Assessment was an individually researched investigation we Physics students had been anticipating since the beginning of IB.
We began by marking previous IA’s; good, bad, we laughed at and praised them all, but the feeling that we would be the ones assessed soon loomed over. Breaking down the assessment criteria, we propelled ourselves into absorbing the good qualities of an investigative report and learned to recognize what to avoid. Ideas started blooming among our classmates—laser diffraction, coupled pendulums, wind tunnels—but that’s all they were: ideas on paper. We found ourselves at the helm of a dozen possibilities, with an inexhaustible list of available lab equipment; we set off to design our own experiments.
Our initial ideas were often not our last. This was something we had to learn the hard way. Hoping to have a perfect plan from the start, many of us became flustered when our first, second, and even our third ideas were never able to escape our paper. One at a time, we lined up in front of Mr. Halabi’s desk to ask about the feasibility and the background of our concepts. We wanted someone to guide us through every step, holding our hand through the investigative process. But no matter the questions we thought of, we did not immediately receive answers. Instead, we received constant feedback, support, and patience, with nudges in the right directions. Ultimately, this allowed us to independently discover the research, investigative, and design process.
With help from each other, we as peers leapt from the theoretical towards the practical. Having designed experimental setups, our next task was to conduct data collection. Whether it was morning, during class, or after school, the physics classroom was a hive of experimentation. Motion sensors, oscillating masses, and launched projectiles filled every corner of the room. For some of us, this process was quick; for others, each day was a new design, an improved setup. We became pillars of support for each other, helping one another collect data and troubleshoot experimental procedures.
Setup pictures (with iconic blue class dividers) flooded our desktops and miscellaneous numbers filled our excel sheet, incoherent to everyone but ourselves. With our data in front of us, we now had to put it into words. All through IB Physics 11 and 12, we dreaded long lab reports, which involved arduously formatting equations and meticulously labeling figures. But because of this constant practice, catching details became second nature to us and data analysis was no longer a puzzle. We were more prepared than we had thought.
Researching background information and filling in the gaps in our knowledge with previous research, we worked to predict a theoretical relationship between the variables we had chosen. Otherwise, we worked on being concise, keeping the report under a 12-page limit. Through consistent practice in past investigations, we were able to clearly present our experiments and write with a logical flow to our analysis. With data in hand to support our conclusions, we were led full circle to the research questions we had posed at the beginning of our investigations, arriving with this time with a definite answer.
“It’ll prepare you for university”, “It looks good on applications”, “You’ll learn so many physics concepts” were things we heard frequently about the IA. What we were not told about, however, was the stress of whether your perfectly logical math model would work in the physical world, the quadratic graphs that were supposed to show linear functions, and the uncertainty and self doubt you felt at every step of the process. We did not learn how to create perfect setups nor how to derive infallible math models. We expected ourselves to be perfect, but instead we made mistakes at every turn. But after every failed concept, we became a little smarter, a little more determined, and a lot more courageous. At the end, our evidence of growth is not the 12-page paper on sound waves or projectile motion, but it is our ability to face failure with open arms.
Congratulations to IB Physics 2022 on completing the IA!
– Katherine Li and Tony Zong