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Group photograph of the students who participated in the Texas A&M University Department of Physics and Astronomy's Spring 2024 Physics 206 Challenge Exam along with their instructors
Spring 2024 Mechanics Scholars | Image: Dr. Michael Youngs, Texas A&M Physics & Astronomy

Twenty Texas A&M University students enrolled in Physics 206 (Classical Mechanics) this spring have been honored by the Department of Physics and Astronomy as its latest class of Mechanics Scholars.

The students, selected for their top-scoring marks on a special end-of-semester “Challenge Exam” open to all Physics 206 students and covering material from all related sections taught during the spring 2024 semester, were honored during a May 5 awards luncheon in the George P. and Cynthia Woods Mitchell Institute for Fundamental Physics and Astronomy.

The event featured a presentation by Dr. David Toback, professor of physics and astronomy and Mitchell Institute member, on career possibilities in physics and related fields. Toback served as co-master of ceremonies for the festivities along with Dr. Michael Youngs, lecturer in physics and astronomy. Each student was presented with a certificate commemorating their accomplishments.

Group photograph of the top three performers in the Spring 2024 Mechanics Scholars Challenge Exam, pictured alongside their instructors in the course
The top spring 2024 Mechanics Scholars, pictured with their instructors (from left:) Dr. Bill Bassichis and Alan Zhou '27 (third place), Annie Pellegreen '27 (first place) and Dr. Larry May, and Samuel White '27 (second place) and Dr. Joe Ross. | Image: Dr. Michael Youngs, Texas A&M Physics & Astronomy

This semester’s top three performers — Annie Pellegreen '27 (first), Samuel White '27 (second) and Alan Zhou '27 (third) — each received a textbook for the second semester course (Physics 207) as well as a monetary award for their achievements. In addition, Pellegreen was presented with the inaugural Dr. Phyllis Toback Award recognizing this spring's top student.

The event is part of the Mechanics Scholar Program, founded by the department in 2002 to celebrate the best students in Physics 206 and encourage career exploration in physics. The competition was held every semester through fall 2019 but then halted in spring 2020 due to the pandemic. This semester marked its official return.

As a large introductory course with challenging subject matter, Physics 206 is open to all majors, but the majority of the enrollment consists of first-year engineering students, along with physics and other science-related majors. At the end of both the fall and spring semesters, any student enrolled in the course is eligible to take the Mechanics Challenge Exam, which covers the same material as the semester-long course — Newton’s Laws of motion, gravity and the concepts of energy, work and momentum. However, Youngs notes that the difficulty level is higher than the course's typical midterm exams by design in order to identify the top performers out of the roughly 2,700 students enrolled across all sections each semester.

"The Mechanics Challenge Exam allows students to demonstrate their physics knowledge and problem-solving skills," Youngs added. "Despite the difficulty, the exam is meant to highlight fun and interesting problems using skills the students have developed as a result of the course." 

Learn more about undergraduate courses and undergraduate degree programs in Texas A&M Physics and Astronomy.