Historical Results for Team USA in the International Olympiad in Astronomy and Astrophysics!

Over three hundred students from thirty-eight countries competed in the 12th International Olympiad in Astronomy and Astrophysics in Beijing, China from November 3rd through 11th. The American team achieved its best result since its first participation seven years ago, with four medals and an honorable mention:

Joseph McCarty (Lubbock High School, TX) — gold medal

Vincent Bian (Poolesville High School, MD) — gold medal and special award for highest score in the theoretical exam

April Cheng (Canyon Crest Academy, CA) — silver medal

Sahil Pontula (Enloe High School, NC) — bronze medal

Andy Zhu (Canyon Crest Academy, CA) — honorable mention

David Yue (Texas Academy of Math and Science, TX) — due to sickness arrived late to the competition.IMG_8365

These achievements are all the more remarkable considering that the USA team never met in person before the competition. Training was conducted by volunteer mentors through video calls with the team members. Instruction in theoretical problems was provided by from the team leaders Natasa Dragovic (University of Texas at Austin) and Ioana Zelko (Harvard University). Prof. Blagoy Rangelov (from Texas State University) and local astronomical societies helped students with the observational round. Prof. David Fallest (from North Carolina State University) helped students with data analysis. Sahil Pontula would also like to thank the Raleigh Astronomy Club and Mr. Doug Lively for their support in his endeavors.

The USA team was selected by volunteer members of the USAAAO (USA Astronomy and Astrophysics Olympiad) based on candidates’ results in a selection exam. The next IOAA will take place in Hungary in August 2019. The USAAAO will soon open registration for the 2019 First Round Exam. Anyone  interested in competing, should sign up at https://usaaao.org/registration/.


The USAAAO team is entirely self-funded and does not receive any support from the United States government. Donations to the team are welcomed via GoFundMe at https://www.gofundme.com/usa-ioaa2018. We need all the help we can get to send our team to the competition!


Support Team USA in the 12th IOAA (Nov 3 – 11)

Cheer on Team USA as they compete in the 12th IOAA in China from November 3rd to 11th! Six students from all around the US will be traveling to China for the next week to compete against top students from other countries. You can learn more about Team USA here!

Please also consider contributing to our gofundme campaign <https://www.gofundme.com/usa-ioaa2018>! We need all the help we can get to send our team to the competition!

Help Team USA travel to China for the 2018 IOAA!


Last year, with your support, Team USA traveled to Thailand and placed 2nd overall in the 2017 IOAA! This year, we hope to travel to China for the 2018 IOAA. As a completely volunteer organization, we’ve unfortunately been unable to find corporate sponsorship, so we’ve started a gofundme campaign <https://www.gofundme.com/usa-ioaa2018>. Your support can not only help the current team but also inspire future team members to attend the Olympiad without having to worry about finance. As an education organization, the USAAAO strongly believes that nobody should be barred from participating in events because of their financial status. The funds raised through this fundraising will be given to and used solely by the USAAAO to cover travel costs to the IOAA, the training camps, and miscellaneous items such as T-shirts for the team.

Congratulations to the 2018 US IOAA Team!

Thanks to all the students and teachers that participated in the 2018 USAAAO! This year, the IOAA will be held in China from November 3rd to November 11th. Representing the US will be:

  • Andy Zhu (Canyon Crest Academy, CA)
  • April Cheng (Canyon Crest Academy, CA)
  • Ben Choi* (Lexington High School, MA)
  • David Yue (Texas Academy of Math and Science (TAMS), TX)
  • Joseph McCarty (Lubbock High School, TX)
  • Sahil Pontula (Enloe High School, NC)
  • Vincent Bian (Poolesville High School, MD)

Ioana Zelko and Natasa Dragovic will attend as team leaders.

We hope to post this year’s exams and solutions soon, so keep an eye on our Past Exams page!

*Unable to attend the IOAA due to college constraints

Register for the 2018 USAAAO!

Registration for the First Round of the 2018 USAAAO is now open on our registration page until Feb 7 at 11:59 PM EST! For information about the selection process, see our selection process page.

Note that this year we are changing the registration process so that students must be registered by a teacher who will proctor the exam. If you believe you can’t find a teacher or have any other questions about the USAAAO send us an email at info@usaaao.org.

If you’re new to the USA Astronomy and Astrophysics Olympiad, we select and train a team of students each year to attend the International Olympiad on Astronomy and Astrophysics. Our selection exams will cover a broad variety of topics from cosmology to observational astronomy. Anyone is welcome to participate, however you must be a US citizen or permanent resident to qualify for the team.

Check out our Resources page to see what kinds of things might appear on an exam. See our About page to learn more about the USAAAO. Email us at info@usaaao.org if you have any questions.

US Team Places 2nd Overall in Thailand!

Forty-four countries competed in the 11th IOAA in Phuket, Thailand from November 12th – 21st. Team USA placed 2nd out of the 44 countries, taking 2 gold medals and 3 honorable mentions:

Hagan Hensley — Gold Medal

Jason Yang — Gold Medal

Siddharth Sridhar — Honorable Mention

Andy Zhu — Honorable Mention

Shubhanga Ballal — Honorable Mention

This is the best Team USA result to date and it comes in no small part to amazing guidance and training from team leaders Roxana Pop and Ioana Zelko. We’re very excited the upcoming year of astronomy and astrophysics olympiads! We hope to open registration for the 2018 First Round Exam soon, so stay tuned! If you’re interested in competing in the future, sign up for our mailing list from the Registration page.

Help fund the US team’s trip to Thailand!


Please consider helping the USAAAO fund the US team‘s trip to the IOAA this year! We’ve started a campaign at https://www.generosity.com/education-fundraising/usa-team-at-international-astrophysics-olympiad to raise money for the travel costs as well as other USAAAO costs like a team t-shirt and training camp resources. We’re a completely volunteer-run organization and have had little luck with corporate sponsorship, so any help is appreciated! Feel free to donate through the campaign link above and email us at info@usaaao.org if you have any questions.
Our fundraising is supported by and done through the American Association of Variable Star Observers (https://www.aavso.org/). The AAVSO is an international non-profit organization of variable star observers whose mission is to enable anyone, anywhere, to participate in scientific discovery through variable star astronomy. The funds raised through this fundraising will be given to and used solely by the USAAAO to cover travel costs to the IOAA, the training camps, and miscellaneous items such as T-shirts for the team.