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.
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!