The Team

David Zhang

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Hey! My name is David Zhang. I have just graduated from William Mason High School this spring, and will be attending MIT in the upcoming fall.

I first got interested in astronomy at a very young age. As with most people, flashy images of quasars, gravitational waves, and nebulae caught my attention. Books and documentaries about the solar system and galaxies enticed me to the mysteries of the universe. How can we know so much about an abyss so vast? I visited a lot of space museums and watched hours of space related content.

Fast forward to high school, I really got to develop that interest for astronomy more seriously because of Science Olympiad. I still regularly compete for that, but I also stumbled across USAAAO sophomore year. I found it to be a lot of fun and studied for it a lot with my friends. USAAAO really showed me the complex physics and math behind astronomy, and just how much is in the field.

In my free time, I love to waste time with friends, play random games like pokemon showdown and clash of clans, and develop my professional poker addiction.

This will be my second time attending IOAA. I had so much fun touring and competing last year in Georgia, I can’t wait to go to Poland this year!

Evan Kim

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My name is Evan Kim and I am a current senior at Tesla STEM High school in Redmond, Washington. I’ll be attending MIT in the fall.

I’ve always been interested in astronomy, but in the past few years, astronomy has become my life.

Ok. Sorry. I’m capping. I don’t think my 6th grade self could’ve envisioned spending a week in Poland with a bunch of Astronomy nerds. That would’ve been far down the bucket list. In fact, it would’ve probably been cleaned out by a mop that was put in the bucket as a “waste of time.”

Ok. This analogy is no longer making sense, but the idea is that I never saw any value in staring up at stars that I’ll never reach, discussing processing both so small (fusion) and so big (expansion) that I’ll never be able to see, and looking at galactic shapes that are only visually pleasing. And maybe I still don’t. But I’ve cared enough to get here—that is, at least some small part of me sees some sort of intrinsic beauty in trying to understand the unknown. Astronomy is about literally staring into the deep unknown, representative of the fundamental nature of science, and I think that’s awesome. I can’t pinpoint this feeling to anything: maybe it was a kurzgesgat video, science olympiad astronomy (thx yucc), or some subconscious remnant of a childhood activity, or an amalgamation of those, but I’m glad it happened in any case.

Outside of science competitions, I also enjoy watching and playing basketball, blogging, and cubing.

Austin Chen

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Hey, I’m Austin, a senior at Lubbock High School in Lubbock, Texas, and I’ll be attending MIT this fall.

I’ve found interest in Astronomy since a middle school trip in the uninhabited Texan mountains to observe the raw beauty of the clear night sky. In high school my interest grew through USAAAO training camps and attending last year’s IOAA. Now I adore Astronomy not only for its visual beauty but also for its elegant applications of mathematics and physics.

But my favorite part of Astronomy still has to be stargazing. I love going out with my friends at 3 AM to stargaze and talk about the world.

This year at IOAA, I am very excited to taste orange cappy again, play card games and WATERMELON, and hopefully have a real nighttime observation.

When I’m not busy dreaming about cappy, I enjoy playing guitar, cello, poker, Minecraft, and Word Hunt, listening to k-pop, Radiohead, and Keshi, trying to find every geocache in Lubbock, and occasionally give my stomach a bad time from eating a large pizza in ten minutes.

David Lee

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Hi! My name is David Lee, and I am an incoming freshman at MIT.

My interest in astrophysics was sparked at a very young age, when I lit on fire a rocket-shaped piece of scrap paper that I had planned on launching into space. Unexpectedly, the launch did not go as planned, and the remains of my rocket were unable to even leave the ground.

That day, I was able to put out the fire in my house, but from then on an unquenchable fire burned in my mind.

I was overcome with a sense of curiosity: What could have gone wrong? How are rockets really made? Then I began thinking deeper. How do we calculate where our rockets are going? Do we look at the alignment of the stars? What even are stars? How do we even know what stars are made of?

I dove into the study of physics and astrophysics to find answers. I learned about the formulas, the clever experiments of brilliant astronomers that coaxed out new laws of physics by simple observation. I understood the concepts, yet some part of me was still filled with that sense of wonder about how we have figured out so much about stars so far away.

Switching to Kerbal Space Program so that I could explode rockets without also exploding my house, I amused myself by calculating the delta v and transfer windows for interplanetary travel, or wrangling with spherical geometry to get rendezvous at awkward angles. I was captivated by how I could apply physics to send my creations to other planets. This also led me to learn more astrophysics and study for the USAAAO.

I am honored to be a part of this year’s IOAA team, and I am extremely grateful to my parents and teachers who helped make this dream of mine a reality. I am excited to meet everybody, and I look forward to the competition!

Adhitya Chandra

Adhitya Chandra - Adhitya Chandra

I’m a rising senior at BASIS Peoria in Peoria, Arizona.

I grew up in Arizona, probably the best state for stargazing and for telescope astronomy. Every so often my family and I would drive north to the Lowell observatory, the place where Pluto was discovered, or south to Kitt Peak, home to several state-of-the-art telescopes. I have also gone to the Grand Canyon Star Party, a yearly event where amateur astronomers from around the country gather just south of the canyon to set up telescopes to look at things in space. Starting from a very young age, I have enjoyed documentaries, books, and magazines in Astronomy.

I first attempted the National Astronomy Competition in 9th grade, and though I understood the conceptual background behind all the questions, I was essentially clueless as to the calculations involved in the questions. But over the last few years I have grown to be much better at Astrophysics, and this year I was lucky enough to make the USA team! I thank both the USAAAO and IOAA organizers for giving us students such an incredible opportunity to learn and grow.

Beyond astronomy, I enjoy solving Rubik’s cubes, playing Table Tennis and Mario Kart, and doing ridiculous chemistry labs.