Going for the Gold

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The U.S. Physics team earned five gold medals at the 51st International Physics Olympiad, considered the most important event of the year for the world’s most talented physics students. The two-part, experimental and theoretical olympiad tasks were solved by almost 400 students from 76 countries. One of the coaches for the U.S. team is CS and mathematics major Kye Shi ’22.

  • I was on the International Physics Olympiad team in 2017 and loved it. I wanted to return and give back to the team. I was also just nostalgic of the whole experience (summer camp, the labs, the atmosphere and the lovable coaches), so I reached out to a head coach and joined the coaching team in 2019.
  • Coach Kevin Zhou deserves credit for our success this year. He organized structured activities and contacted guest speakers and developed a rigorous, comprehensive plan to prepare the “traveling” team for the international olympiad. Kevin, as well as the students, truly made the very best of the everything-is-now-online situation. The olympiad was officially hosted in Lithuania this year, which meant that, even though no one traveled to attend in person, all events were scheduled in Lithuanian time (seven hours ahead of ET, 10 hours ahead of PDT). So, during the olympiad, our students across the U.S. had begin their day around midnight, work through the night until approximately 7 a.m., then go to bed in the morning. We helped them adapt to this nocturnal schedule a week prior to the olympiad.
  • What I think contributed substantially to the team’s success this year is our focus on teaching in a student-driven manner (active learning or inquiry-based learning). I think “doing” (as opposed to listening to lectures) is by far the most effective way to learn. I’m thrilled to see where we can go in the next few years.

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