Team Facts & News

The Olympiad is a nine-day international competition among pre-university students from more than 60 nations. — AAPT.ORG

2015 Physics Olympics Team Banner

Meet the Team


Photo of Ben Hannel

Ben Hannel

West Lake Village, CA

Westlake High School

Grade: Senior


I enjoy mountain bike riding, playing ultimate Frisbee, programming, binge reading Wikipedia articles, and virtually any kind of card game.


I am a member of my school’s Academic Decathlon and Science Olympiad teams.


I have received 17 medals in Academic Decathlon, and 10 medals in Science Olympiad. My Academic Decathlon team and Science Olympiad team both won first place in their region. I am valedictorian of my high school graduating class. I am a National Merit finalist, earned the highest overall score at my school on the American Computer Science League Tests, and have been nominated for Boy’s State.


My world is one of intense fascination and voracious learning which my family has nurtured and encouraged.

Age seven. My dad asks me, “if a mile of cable weighs one ton, and it is three hundred miles long, how much does it weigh?” As I work through this problem, and hundreds of others like it over the years, I adopt an engineer’s perspective on the world.

Age ten. My dad shows me a family tree, and genealogy piques my interest. I collect data about my own family, interviewing relatives whenever I can, and construct a tree spanning hundreds of people stretching back centuries.

Age twelve. I discover I can program my graphing calculator. I’m hooked, and I explore the limits of what others think is a mere calculator. I write games and create a Mandelbrot fractal renderer. The calculator is banned from family dinner, but my head is still filled with “if” statements and matrix transformations while my mouth is filled with spaghetti and meatballs.

Age thirteen. My dad creates the “Young Inventors’ Club” at my middle school. We meet at lunch to explore engineering by building everything from mousetrap powered cars to devices which protect eggs that are dropped from the top of the school. In the club, my dad announces a competition to build the tallest tower out of a single sheet of paper. I place second, but I am not content. I continue improving my tower designs, and I eventually create one that is nine feet tall.

Age fifteen. With my family’s help and encouragement, I create my largest web application yet, EVTripPlanner, which helps people all over the world plan road trips in electric vehicles, specifically the Tesla Model S. A woman in Italy emails me about an issue with the charger database. A bug in my code is like an itch I need to scratch, so I immediately dive in. Hours pass as I hunt down the problem. At four a.m., I find and fix the bug. I go to sleep satisfied and dream of code. The next morning I thank the Italian woman for bringing the issue to my attention and tell her it is fixed. She replies, “EVTripPlanner is amazing. Keep up the good work!”

All of these projects stimulated my curiosity and drove me to challenge myself. I dream about finding a career which I am as intensely passionate about as the projects which have consumed me since I was young.

« back to the team

Disclaimer: Information in Physics Team profiles is provided by the Team members and is in no way a reflection of AAPT's opinions or views.