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Linking Young Minds Together
  Volume 3 | Issue 18 | May 08, 2011 |


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Young Scientists

Donning the Thinking Cap

Sameeha Suraiya

The first National Olympiad was appreciated by both students and academicians.
Photo: Shawkat Jamil

The quest to finding answers to all the questions that boggle the mind is, and will always be, unending. To have answers for oneself, questioning is perhaps, the best way to go about it, considering that it is this one habit that led to almost all the great discoveries. This may give the little ones the perfect justification to badger the adults with their endless volley of questions. Apart from simple annoyance, the marvels that this may result in could perhaps, introduce the newest discovery that the meek one failed to think of. A little too far-fetched? Yet, the first National Physics Olympiad, a joint initiation of Oxford International School (OIS) and The Daily Star, and endorsed by the Ministry of Education and Bangladesh Physical Society, was surely all about that -- encouraging to think beyond the confines of classrooms, and to question, wisely and relentlessly!

The Olympiad, the first of its kind in Bangladesh, was organised with a call for more practicing of Physics in the country. Students of 15-20 years of age participated in the event, where 50 schools and universities from across the country took part. Five of the best performers will be chosen to represent Bangladesh for the first time in the 42nd International Physics Olympiad (IPhO) in Thailand this July, where over 90 countries will be sharing the grand floor. IPhO is the most prestigious international physics competition for students with the aims of raising awareness of physics as one of the important bases of scientific research, along with promoting future international collaborations and encouraging friendships within the scientific community. So on a sleepy Friday morning on April 29, Oxford International School came alive with students pouring in, ready to take on a battle of the minds. Principal of OIS, G. M. Nizam Uddin, addressed the participants in the opening of the event, saying, “You are definitely some of the most talented students in the country. This is a wonderful opportunity for you to get a greater exposure and explore your potential to the world beyond.”

Students faced two rounds of examinations in the next two hours. Noted personalities who have made some of the most remarkable contributions to the sciences in Bangladesh, observed the competition in progress, starting from preparing the question papers, selecting students and training the winners for the ultimate showdown due in July. A few of the names in the judges' panel include Prof. Dr. M Shamsher Ali, President, Bangladesh Academy of Sciences; Prof. Ali Asgar, President, Bangladesh Physical Society; Dr. Supriya Sahar and Dr. Arshad Momen, Department of Physics, University of Dhaka.

The Physics Olympiad teaches this generation of students to be a part of the thinking movement. Photo: ShawkAt Jamil

With the end of the Olympiad examinations, students were presented with video shows of Science and Astronomy. The cultural programme included a drama titled 'Tears of Einstein' by playwright and director, Dr. Zohir Biswas, International Theatre Trainer and Head, Department of Drama at OIS. The drama acted out by school students, focused on the gift of science and the abuse of it, and generated much interest as it portrayed among others, the characters of Sir Isaac Newton, Albert Einstein, Galileo and Socrates. The award distribution was perhaps, the highlight of the daylong event. Names were announced as renowned personalities of the academia took the stage to accolade the brightest performers with gold, bronze and silver medals, and some words of inspiration.

Prof. Muhammad Zafar Iqbal of Shahjalal University of Science and Technology, and one of the special guests, encouraged students to think freely and see the world the way they want to, because the all-encompassing nature of Physics requires that. Prof. M. Shamsher Ali, will be remembered for his motivating words. Denouncing the ordinary classroom experience, he urged students to seek in activities that stimulate the mind, saying, “Physics is the core of all world disciplines. Education remains meaningless unless you are actively involved in activities that surround you.” Mahfuz Anam, Editor and Publisher of The Daily Star, and Chief Patron and Adviser in the organising committee, echoed the teacher's words, stressing the place of Physics in the modern world. “I love the spirit of curiosity that carries us forward. Physics is a mental attitude, not just a subject. We want a mental movement, and a Bangladesh of scientists and creative thinkers.”

In the journey to building the future constructively, applied sciences continue to play a major role. The Physics Olympiad not only paves the way for an international exposure, but more importantly, teaches this generation of students to be a part of the thinking movement, because only then do great things happen. While speaking to the elated Ishiak Zia, a gold medal winner from BUET, that drive was all too noticeable. “Modern Physics, especially Electromagnetics has always been my forte. Let's see where I can take Bangladesh from here!” Shah Habibur Rahman, a student of class 9 of Manarat International School, and one of the bronze winners in the competition, certainly seemed to be working on a passionate dream. He sees himself studying in Nuclear Physics at MIT. “I am so excited. Physics is my favourite subject and there are so many things I want to do and see.”

It is this same thought that the Olympiad resolved to put forward. Seems like its participants are already catching the vibe.


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