“Our main rival was the Chinese team.” Moscow schoolchildren about Asian Physics Olympiad

May 25
Education

The 20th Asian Physics Olympiad took place in Adelaide (Australia) from 5 to 12 May. For the first time in its history, a Russian schoolboy became its absolute winner. This is Grigory Bobkov, a student of Moscow’s school No.1589. The performance of other participants of the team also gives grounds for pride: the Russian team has won two gold, four silver, and one bronze medals.

Mos.ru has had a talk with the teacher who had coached Moscow’s team and with two prize winners of the Olympiad, Aleksey Shishkin and Vladimir Malinovsky. They both study at school No.1589 according to individualized plans.   

The boys are allowed not to attend standard lessons. They just take tests at the end of the term. This significantly eases their life, considering that the preparation for national and international Olympiads takes up much time and that the intermissions between trips to intellectual contests are crammed with lots of training rallies. In short, they live a life of professional sportsmen.

Aleksey Shishkin: Doing sums and watching new countries

11th former, gold medallist

My career of an Olympiad participant started fairly long ago. In the 6th form, I tried my strength at the city physics Olympiad for 7th formers and in the 7th I succeeded in winning several contests. In the 8th form, I won the final stage of the National Olympiad for 9th formers. At the moment, I’m a four-time winner of the National Physics Olympiad finals. Now I’ve scored the gold of the Asian Olympiad. Besides, last July I got a silver medal at the International Physics Olympiad.

The Chinese team is traditionally the chief rival at the Asian Olympiad. Chinese students always thoroughly prepare for physics Olympiads, invariably winning the first place as a team. Also, there were representatives from India, Vietnam, Singapore, Taiwan, Indonesia, Turkey and other 15 countries.

This year, a representative of our team has become, for the first time in the history of Russia’s participation in the Asian Physics Olympiad, an absolute winner. This is Grigory Bobkov, my classmate.  

That was my first visit to Australia and its wildlife impressed me very much. We took a trip to a safari park, watched kangaroos and koalas there. During travels to Olympiads, one does not only solve problems but also watches new countries and meets new people. At this Olympiad, we rubbed shoulders with schoolchildren from Israel, Kazakhstan, Romania, and Mongolia.      

I’ve got friends in other countries whom I met at the Olympiads and with whom I maintain friendly relations and correspond. They are mostly kids from the CIS, with whom I can speak Russian.

At this Olympiad, all the tasks were very difficult, as the teams’ results show. Only three persons scored over 60 percent of the total points whereas usually many score 80 and more percent at international Olympiads.  

The experimental round was particularly difficult. We were to carry out several experiments with ferromagnetic fluid. For instance, we had to create waves in it, make a video footage of the process, draw their shapes in the answers sheet, and compute their speed and other parameters. The participants did not cope with the experiment very well, because they had no time to do everything and few of them obtained the right value for the required figures. However, the Russian team’s results were among the best in that round.

Five hours were given for each of the two rounds. The theoretical one contained three tasks with at least ten items, and the experimental one had two tasks with four experiments in each. The statements of the problems were very long, from 10 to 20 pages. Their solution took up roughly the same space. In order to learn to cope with such bulky problems, one needs at least a year of dedicated training. The team’s coaches have helped us very much in this.

Why physics caught my fancy? More than anything in life I value human thinking. That’s why I love all sciences, but natural and exact ones, such as physics, chemistry, and mathematics, come easier to me.

If I resolve to bind my life to physics, I am likely to enter the Moscow Institute of Physics and Technology. But I haven’t yet decided for sure, because I tackle chemistry just as seriously and participate in relevant Olympiads.

I study at school according to an individualized plan, since preparation for Olympiads takes a lot of time. Sometimes I study up to 12 hours a day! I can’t attend regular classes, have to take tests at the end of the term.

Vladimir Malinovsky: I met schoolchildren from other countries in Australia

11th former, silver medallist

I’ve been preparing for the Asian Olympiad all through the school year. The training sessions took place three times a week. One was fully dedicated to experiments, since the Olympiad is divided into theoretical and experimental rounds. Incidentally, the equipment for experiments is usually brought by our coaches from previous Olympiads, after which it is used for training our students.

A selection for the Asian Olympiad is a sophisticated process. Based on the results of the National Olympiad (I was the third there), 32 students are selected and then sent for a training rally. At first 16 persons are screened out, and then further eight. The remaining eight go to “the Asian contest”.  After that, five from those eight will be hand-picked for the International Physics Olympiad where they will compete against participants from all over the world. Now the national team’s coaches are selecting those five students.   

The Olympiad is a big event that I will remember for a long time. Firstly, that was my first visit to Australia. We arrived in Sidney and spent a day there. That’s where we saw a kangaroo. And I even tasted its meat! As it happens, it’s used in cooking. Secondly, the Olympiad offers an opportunity to meet children from other countries. This time I associated a lot with schoolchildren from Singapore. It was quite interesting.

When we arrived in Adelaide, where the Olympiad took place, they put us up at the hotel and had us give in our telephones, so that our teachers would not relay the tasks to us. The thing is that they receive the tasks on a previous night to translate them from English into Russian. That’s why everything was so strict, no communication was allowed.

The Olympiad as such consisted of two rounds: theoretical on one day and practical (experimental) on another. The tasks overall met my expectations, though they were a bit more difficult than usual. The Asian Olympiad differs from the Russian one in that the latter normally offers big and complicated tasks, whereas the former contains many items each of which brings a small number of points.

As a winner of the National Olympiad, I’m entitled to entering any higher school specializing in my line without taking entrance exams. I chose the Moscow Institute of Physics and Technology, setting my sights on general and applied physics.

Vitaly Shevchenko: There must be a close-knit team to prepare for the Olympiad

Physics Teacher, school No.1589

The school where I teach holds classes for preparation for high-level Olympiads. I coached students from Moscow schools for the theoretical part of the Asian Olympiad.

The administration, form masters and subject teachers have provided all the required conditions for the team of schoolchildren. The students study according to individualized plans. The natural science and research laboratories are outfitted with all the relevant equipment, which makes it possible to practice and experiment at all times.

The chart of preparation for international Olympiads is very intensive. So, starting with January, the children are particularly busy travelling to practice Olympiads in Kazakhstan and Romania, coming to training rallies in physics, participating in regional and national schoolchildren’s Olympiad finals, and the Asian Olympiad.

For the three students of school No.1589, members of the Russian physics team, the preparation in this subject coincided with training rallies and other stressful events, since the students were also drilling other subjects, preparing for national and international schoolchildren’s Olympiads. Subject teachers, being aware of the load on the Olympiad participants, vary the amount of home tasks for such students during the academic year.

The training at school is organized so that the students wouldn’t worry about their current grades, interim assessment and state exams in mandatory subjects. As senior students return from Olympiads and rallies, the subject teachers analyse the tasks with them on an individual basis.

The form master ensures that the children become members of the school community given that they are in for not only the uniform state exam, but also high-school graduation party, which is going to become a memorable experience. I know for a fact that not a single request or problem of these students goes unconsidered by the school.

Speaking about the specifics of preparation for international Olympiads in the framework of extended school education, we should point out that usually we use assignments of previous international Olympiads and training rallies. Since I know quite a few foreign languages, I take foreign publications and translate them into Russian. The schoolchildren have a fairly good command of English, though insufficient for clear and full understanding of statements of complex physics problems.

We have not yet decided who will go to Israel in July for the International Olympiad. We came to the conclusion that it’s wrong to select based on just the number of points scored at the Asian Olympiad. A student’s motivation should also be taken into account. Sometimes a student performs well in terms of absolute values, but his or her motivation gradually flags. We had a case when one of our students got a silver medal and his motivation continued to fade while another came by bronze but his motivation soared up.  Guided by the points scored at the Asian Olympiad, we sent the silver winner to the international Olympiad, where he performed worse than at the Asian one. So we’d erred.

So, not all is that simple. We take into account lots of different parameters, for instance, how the students showed themselves throughout the year, how they worked on their home tasks, etc. We already know these children well enough. I’ve been working with some of them over the last year and a half, two years and a half with others.

There are schools that traditionally train participants of the final stage of the national Olympiad. However, when it comes to preparation for an international Olympiad, extra efforts must be made. Efficient schools are often unwilling to free their students from regular attendance of major classes or reduce the requirements to the basic level. Sometimes we went to those schools’ headmasters to request them not to overload such students, so that they could prepare for the international Olympiad without any extra stress. But our solicitation was rejected.

At school No.1589, they proceed from the fact that the individualized education plan is jointly made by the school, the parents and the student and at the beginning of the academic year the learning format is elaborated for various subjects. It is mainly a full-time and extramural form of study or just extramural.   

I’m sure the kids won’t let their school down at the unified state exams, either. I know that last year’s school leavers, winners and prize winners of international Olympiads, have successfully coped with the final state certification. Overall, I’m also pleased with our students’ results at the Asian Olympiad, as well as other Olympiads over the last couple of years.  

I’d like to point out that the high results shown each year by schoolchildren at the Asian and the International Physics Olympiads testify to their comprehensive preparation. Of course, it starts at the school level of the national Olympiad. At its first stage, this competition involves hundreds of thousands of schoolchildren all over the country.

Moscow puts a special focus on natural science Olympiads. Moscow’s Pedagogical Skills Centre arranges many dedicated courses and extra training sessions for children, bolstering their talents. The sessions are conducted by enthusiastic teachers having a wealth of experience in the Olympiad movement. Much time is given to practical sessions at which children learn how to use experimental equipment. The Pedagogical Skills Centre participates in training children for different competitions, from school to international level.

Source: mos.ru

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