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For the first time from New Zealand, high school students will compete in the International Astronomy Olympiad.

New Zealand Science Teachers Association was invited this year to send students to the 7th International Olympiad on Astronomy and Astrophysics, which will be held in Volos, Greece from 27 of July to 5th of August 2013.

Navodhi Depalchitra, Daniel Yska from Onslow College, Darina Kuhn from Wellington East Girls College and Connor Hale from Tawa College will be accompanied by Gordon Hudson, president of the Royal Astronomical Society of New Zealand.

We wish them a stellar time!!

All four students have demonstrated proficiency in practical Astronomy, are active members of the NZ Royal Astronomical Society, and have achieved highly in NCEA Physics and Mathematics. The level of competition will be high, as most other competing teams come from countries in which Astronomy forms a significant part of the secondary school curriculum. To counter this, the New Zealand students have been attending regular training sessions.

Fundraising for the expedition

Kind sponsors of the expedition are: the Royal Astronomical Society of New Zealand, Carter Observatory who very generously made available the Observatory for training sessions for the students and a fundraising planetarium show.

Ongoing fundraising:

Why sending students to an Olympiad?

I strongly believe that our country, New Zealand has a great natural advantage (we could say with the best skies to train) and the intelectual capability to participate in international olympiads. At the end of the day almost every year New Zealand wins medals in the Biology, Geography, Mathematics, Chemistry and Informatics. It is time for a new star at the horizon: astronomy.

The project team would like to see this event transformed into a yearly one starting in 2013. Sending students to an Olympiad means that we are making sure they have equal opportunities for development, as any other students around the world. Most of the times, Olympiads entail lots of preparation and learning, in a country-large effort. However this year, due to the very short time available to organise, it would have to be a pilot programme for the subject of astronomy. For the future, we hope that the Olympiad syllabus could be integrated with the Curriculum for Planet Earth and Beyond. And hopefully, from next year, we will see a country wide competition in which students around New Zealand would participate to be selected for representing our country in the international Astronomy competitions.

A few highlights from the invitation:

About Olympiads

(excerpt from IOAA website)

Every year, international scientific organizations organize and conduct internationally, student Olympiads in various fields (Mathematics, Physics, Information Technology, Chemistry and Biology). Each country is represented by the students who have been selected after the competition, and who have subsequently been trained and prepared adequately to represent their country. It is the goal of every mission to honor his or her country by earning a medal or a distinction at the International Olympiad.
The Olympiad on Astronomy & Astrophysics was initially established with Aristotelian University of Thessaloniki professor John Seiradakis' initiative, who, during the general meeting of the International Astronomical Union held in Prague in August 2006, contributed to the implementation of this international event.
The competition is in 3 phases.

  • Phase 1 entails the Theoretical Part. The students must solve 15 short problems and 2 long problems on Astronomy and Astrophysics (duration of exams: 5 hours).
  • Phase 2 entails Data Analysis. Students are provided with real Astronomy-Astrophysics data and are required to solve 2-3d problems based solely on the data provided (duration of exams: 5 hours)1
  • Phase 3 entails the Observational Part. Students are outside in the nighttime, (unless it is cloudy with little visibility and they are then inside a planetarium), and are required to answer questions pertaining to constellations, stars, the planets and the moon.

Why participate in an Olympiad? (IOAA view)

"The aim of the Astronomy Olympiad is to inspire and provide high school students with the opportunity to acquire knowledge in the sciences of the sky, i.e. Astronomy and Astrophysics. Through their participation in this international event, participants are given the opportunity to meet other students, from other countries, who have the same scientific interests as themselves. Additionally, cooperation between countries enables future scientific research.

The Olympiad, like all Olympiads, projects a country amongst scientific and academic circles and attracts high-level tourism (university professors, team leaders, observers and guests)."

According to the statutes of the Olympiad, all participating countries are obliged to undertake the organization of the Olympiad at least once. After the evaluation in 2010, Greece was proposed to host the organization of the Olympiad. In every Olympiad, each country is represented with maximum two leaders and five students. Observers and accompanying attendants are also welcome. To date, the average of participating countries has been 25, with numbers growing at a steady rate

Wikipedia Astronomy Olympiad Page

IOAA Olympiad Link

Article in the NZASE magazine about the Astronomy Olympiad




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