Two Canberra students will push their science knowledge to the limit when they represent Australia at the International Science Olympiad.
James Monro of Canberra Grammar School will be competing in the physics competition while Narrabundah College student Alexandra Vickery will be joining the earth sciences team.
The year 12 students have managed to find time amid their regular studies and extra-curricular activities to immerse themselves in high-level science problems in preparation for the competition.
The pair attended camps in January this year with 30 of the top minds from around Australia and got a crash course of the senior science curriculum.
They made it through to the next camp with only 10 students in April and shortly after that got the news that they had been selected to represent Australia at the international level.
In the physics Olympiad, James will face two five-hour tests, comprising a challenging theory paper and a practical component where students do complex labs and write up a report on their experiments.
"The theory paper is really really interesting, because a lot of the time it's almost a way of teaching you something that's complex and challenging, without actually teaching you," he said.
"You're forced to learn yourself and figure out what's going on without having necessarily been taught it already."
Meanwhile, Alexandra has already started her practical task in collaboration with team members from around Australia.
The students are collecting and analysing dirt samples with microplastics near synthetic fields to see how the plastic has degraded and what effects that might have on the environment.
She's collected samples from Telopea Park to contribute to this original research.
"I'm the only one who collected the samples in Canberra so it really sort of feels like this is a whole set of data which no one has gotten to see before, a whole new effect which maybe we haven't considered yet and that's really exciting," she said.
As with many international events, the International Science Olympiad has been modified because of COVID-19 travel restrictions. James missed out on a trip to Lithuania and Alexandra would have travelled to Siberia.
Instead, the exams will take place at the Australian National University.
Physics competitors will have to isolate in a room for 24 hours before each exam without any contact with the outside world to allow the Olympiad team leaders to translate the papers from British English to avoid cultural misunderstandings. Unfortunately for James, the lockout period falls on his 18th birthday.
Alexandra's Olympiad exam falls on the day before the ACT Scaling Test.
But the sacrifices are worth it for the year 12 students who have been able to meet many like-minded people from across Australia and the world.
"It's just enjoyable to talk with other people who also find it very interesting," James said.
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