It turns out that the scientific world also has first and second teams, a cycle preceding the Olympiad and a training schedule. Ivan Yashchenko, jury coordinator and director of the Educational Skills Centre, spoke about the results of the 2nd Olympiad of Megalopolises, which took place in Moscow between 4 and 9 September.
Question: Mr Yashchenko, how does the Olympiad of Megalopolises differ from other intellectual competitions?
Ivan Yashchenko: Usually an Olympiad features teams from different countries. This one has teams from different cities, because educational systems in large cities have their own particular characteristics. One of the tasks of the Olympiad is to exchange experience of these large cities.
More and more there is an understanding that a complex study of the sciences is needed in the modern world, when we have a digital economy and technology which is developing so rapidly. Another thing which is so particular about the Olympiad is the fact that children compete in four subjects namely maths, ICT, physics and chemistry. Every team has eight members, two per subject.
Question: The Olympiad of Megalopolises has its own unofficial test. Please tell us about it.
Ivan Yashchenko: Yes, this is the blitz test. It is not included in the main results of the Olympiad, but it is still very important. It is a useful warmup and, as children say, drive. Every team has two hours and 80 tasks (in four subjects). The tasks are solved together, by all eight members. If the main competition has few tasks and lots of time, here we have the opposite, that’s why it’s called “blitz”.
An example of the tasks: “Several people attended a high school reunion. All attendees shook hands with each other. The total number of handshakes was 435. How many people attended the reunion?”
The blitz test includes tasks sent by teams in advance. This means that each one of the 36 teams sends several school tasks typical for its city. All of them are collected, and then 80 tasks are chosen. These are difficult tasks, but not Olympiad but advanced school level. This is another role the blitz test has. Participants see what tasks pupils solve in other cities.
Question: So every team knows several tasks in advance?
Ivan Yashchenko: Yes, but it is just a couple, you can’t score many points if you solve them and it is not critical, because the main point of the blitz is to warm up, the result is not counted.
The answers in this test were checked by a computer, so the results were shown at the same time. We even broadcast them on the internet. It was a motivating, dynamic story. The first place was unconditionally taken by the Shanghai team, they were ahead of everyone else and in an hour and a half they solved almost all the tasks.
It was an all- out fight for other places. St Petersburg rated second several minutes nearing the end and Moscow, Hong Kong and Belgrade scored third place. Participants solved the same number of tasks.
About 300 Moscow schools participated in the blitz test online and the results were good
By the way, Moscow school pupils could solve the blitz tasks at the same time. They received the tasks via the internet. About 300 schools participated in the blitz test online and the results were good.
For example, School No 179 came close to the teams’ results. Then pupils discussed the tasks at forums, on social networks as well as with teachers. Their interest is understandable and besides it’s cool to solve tasks collected from all over the world!
Question: Could pupils from other cities take part in this blitz test?
Ivan Yashchenko: This year we gave this opportunity to the Moscow schools, but next year we are planning to give access to schools from all over the world.
Question: What tasks were in the main rounds?
Ivan Yashchenko: The main rounds were held on each of the four subjects, with children solving problems on a level with those included in leading international Olympiads.
The Moscow team shared the first place with Hong Kong and Shanghai, with the total score being the highest: 669.52 points. Hong Kong has a minimum margin: 664.78 points, and Shanghai 633.75
Physicists and chemists had not only theoretical but a practical part too. For example, physicists assembled a spectrometre (optical device – mos.ru) themselves. Special assembly kits were produced at the Moscow plant, where some of the best spectrometres are manufactured in the world. So, first children assembled the device, and then used it while carrying out the task. By the way, these kits are now given to engineering classes at Moscow schools.
At the same time, chemists carried out a chemical experiment, analysed substances. They were using cutting edge equipment, for example, magnetic stirrers. It is worth mentioning here that all the experiments were carried out with standard Moscow school equipment.
Both rounds in maths were about solving problems. Both rounds in ICT were about writing programmes.
Question: Who prepared the tasks and how?
Ivan Yashchenko: Members of an international jury prepared and then checked the tasks. Of course, in complete secrecy. The jury includes representatives from Azerbaijan, Armenia, Belarus, Hungary, Kazakhstan, Columbia, South Korea, Russia, Serbia and Slovakia. The part of Russia in preparing tasks was the same as other countries’.
Russian scientist, academician Dmitry Treshchyov presided over the maths jury. The chemistry jury was presided over by a Korean scientist, a very famous specialist in his field. The ICT jury was chaired by a representative of Kazakhstan, and the physics - of Columbia.
Members of the Moscow team. Chemistry, Alexei Konoplyov (11th grade, MSU school) and Ilya Kanner (11th grade, School No 1253), Physics , Boris Bilich (first-year student, graduated from School No 1329) and Dmitry Plotnikov (first-year student, graduated from School No 1329), Maths, Vadim Retinsky (11th grade, School No 1329) and Yegor Ryabov (11th grade, School No 1329), ICT, Vladimir Romanov (10th grade, MSU school) and Filipp Gribov (11th grade, MSU school)
The fight was tough and the teams were strong. Of course, we worried very much, especially after Shanghai ‘s overwhelming victory in the blitz test. To tell the truth, Chinese teams are famous for their spirit and strength, usually they make no mistakes and have solid backgrounds. They are one of our main competitors.
Question: What is the place of the Olympiad of Megalopolises among intellectual competitions?
Ivan Yashchenko: This year we had participants from 36 cities. If we compare that with last year, there were 22. It means acknowledging the level of the Olympiad, the quality of the tasks. Countries that win leading positions in the international competitions in maths, physics, chemistry, ICT sent first rate teams, if we compare this with sports. So the participants were winners of the international Olympiads in corresponding subjects.
The participating cities were Moscow, St Petersburg (Russia), Abu Dhabi (UAE), Almaty, Astana (Kazakhstan), Baku (Azerbaijan), Banja Luka (Bosnia and Herzegovina), Belgrade (Serbia), Bishkek (Kyrgyzstan), Bratislava (Slovakia), Budapest (Hungary), Vienne (Austria), Gaborone (Botswana), Hannover, Dusseldorf and Leipzig (Germany), Hong Kong, Luoyang, Beijing, Chengdu and Shanghai (China), Jakarta (Indonesia), Zagreb (Croatia), Jerusalem and Tel Aviv (Israel), Krakow (Poland), Lima (Peru), Milan and Rome (Italy), Minsk (Belarus), New Delhi (India), Riga (Latvia), Sofia (Bulgaria), Istanbul (Turkey), Tallinn (Estonia), and Helsinki (Finland)
Many countries now see the Olympiad of Megalopolises as an important dummy run before future international Olympiads. Leading capitals have included this event in their scientific schedule, training schedule of their national teams. We can say that we are now in the cycle preceding the Olympics: premium competitions attended by the best.
Question: What can change next year?
Ivan Yashchenko: Now we are discussing whether to add biology to the Olympiad list subjects.
Photos provided by the Educational Skills Centre’s press service