Each year Tawa Rotary assists young people in reaching their goals. A small grant was awarded to Connor Hale and here is how he has benefited.
I am extremely grateful for both the financial support and the help and encouragement received from family, friends, teachers, professors and everyone else who assisted in the lead up to our trip to Greece and, in doing so, gave us the opportunity to be the first team to represent NZ at the 7th International Olympiad on astronomy and astrophysics.
As you can probably guess we have all been interested in astronomy for some years, and have attended meetings and observing sessions held by local clubs and the Wellington Astronomical Society. However none of us imagined our passion could lead to an opportunity such as this.
The experience was amazing, and the friendliness of the other students and our hosts have left very warm memories. The exam questions were very difficult and, unlike our NZQA exams, required us to memorise some complex formulae. Nevertheless, we tried hard, benefited immensely, and won the astronomy poster competition with thanks to the design skills of local astronomy enthusiast, Haritina Mogosanu.
We knew that the five-hour theory exams would be very demanding and are grateful Carter Observatory supported us by allowing Haritina to train us on the northern hemisphere sky in the planetarium, and to run a fundraising planetarium show. We also worked through seemingly unsolvable astrophysics problems for hours with Antony Gomez and Chris Monigatti at Tawa College- including when the ‘big’ July earthquake struck- only a minor break, then back to the calculators.
There was only one glitch with travel- neither our guide nor bus was at the airport or even in Athens to meet us. Thankfully all turned out well as the Canadian guide was there, minus her team and bus! She took us into Athens for sightseeing, which was a bonus, then back to the airport for a later bus. After a seemingly endless bus ride we arrived in Volos at 3am; about four hours north of Athens and 40 hours since leaving Wellington Airport.
On Saturday July 27th we attended a formal opening ceremony, with our excellent guide Kostas Kissas - he was really enthusiastic to be with the New Zealand team, and we think we got the best guide!
Next morning, we left our team leader, Gordon Hudson, with the other team leaders in the lovely seaside city of Volos in 35°C heat, while we travelled about an hour into the mountains to Chania, where we stayed at The Palace (not as flash as it sounds), which is a ski hotel in the winter. This area is quiet, less populated and has cooler temperatures.
Helping us with any further questions and providing excellent Greek cuisine was Maya Barlev, who was in the final stage of her global study of astronomy education. All of the students were really friendly and could speak English, even though most were from non-English speaking countries. The Olympiad organizers had a schedule of activities such as football, volleyball, swimming, and table tennis as well as the three 5 hour exams! We were randomly assigned to rooms of three students, of the same gender, but from different countries. I shared with a Croatian (football fans) and a Malaysian (they have Milo there too). The NZ team became famous for our enjoyment of Greek food and even featured in some of Volos’ local newspapers.
On Sunday the 4th of August we returned to Volos for the official closing ceremony and award presentations. While we didn’t manage to win any medals (other than one I got for sports activities), and were placed well down the list, I was 2nd within the NZ team and had a great experience both educationally and personally.
Thanks again for your support, Connor Hale