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Semiahmoo Secondary student places 1st in BC & earns shot at national physics Olympics team

7MK_6773%20copy.jpgEric Shao is one of only 15 students across Canada to be invited to try out for Canada's national student physics team.A Semiahmoo Secondary physics student has made it to the final 15 in the selection process for Canada’s national team at the International Science Olympiads (IPhO).

Eric Shao, a Grade 12 International Baccalaureate (IB) student, recently placed first in BC at the Canadian Association of Physicists (CAP) High School Prize Exam and sixth overall in Canada. His performance earned him an invitation to the Canadian Physics Olympiad Training Camp, where he will take part in a week-long physics camp to try out for Canada’s national IPhO team.

“This is one of the most significant physics competitions for high school students,” said Shao’s IB physics teacher Louay El Halabi. “The IPhO is one of the most challenging and fun competitions in the world and is a platform to showcase natural talent and ability in physics.”

According to the CAP website, approximately 2,000 students take the High School Prize Exam each year, with only 50-100 students scoring above 50% nationally. The 15 highest-scoring students are then invited to take part in the camp at the University of British Columbia (UBC) in late May, where five are selected to represent Canada’s National Team at the IPhO in Tokyo this summer.

“I’m excited about the prospect of going to Tokyo and participating as part of Canada’s physics team in Tokyo,” said Shao. “However, I’m just as excited about participating in a week-long camp where I can learn and discuss challenging physics with other like-minded students.”

Shao’s interest in physics began two years ago in Grade 10, but it wasn't until he took El Halabi’s IB physics class that his interest in the subject really took off.

“I really enjoyed how physics can model and predict the world so well, and how I was able to make these predictions with very little initial information, thanks to physics,” he explained. “I particularly found concepts like circular motion, electromagnetism and relativity very fascinating.”

With his interest sparked, Shao dove headfirst into physics, taking El Halabi’s courses and participating in physics extracurriculars. Having scored well on last year’s Sir Isaac Newton Exam, as well as having a managing role in the Semiahmoo Secondary Physics Team at this year’s UBC Physics Olympics, Shao looked at the CAP exam as one of the final physics challenges he would face in high-school.FqbRThnaMAAhPip.jpgEric (centre) at the UBC Physics Olympics earlier this year.

“I found the CAP exam very challenging overall, but it was also rewarding whenever I applied the concepts I’ve learned in a creative manner,” he said, describing one question in particular that stood out to him. “The question asks about soap bubbles combining to form a larger one and whether the sum of the two initial volumes is larger, smaller, or equal to the final bubble’s volume. The solution involves a thorough understanding of energy transfers as well as gas properties, so that was quite rewarding to solve.”

With the CAP exam in the rearview mirror, Shao is looking ahead to the IPhO training camp. Regardless of whether he makes the national IPhO team, he’s just looking forward to taking part and happy for the opportunity to challenge himself.

“I’m not sure what I’ll be pursuing post-secondary, but I’m considering a technical subject to major in, whether it be theoretical/applied physics, theoretical/applied mathematics, or computer science,” he said, “However, I’ll definitely be taking some more physics classes post-secondary!”

Congratulations Eric!

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