Bob Cliffe is one of only three UK students to be selected, in the first year that the country has sent a team to the Olympiad.
Bob, who holds an offer to study Maths at Pembroke College, Cambridge, was among the top 15 Physics students in the country to be invited to the Physics Olympiad Training Camp at the University of Oxford, after getting through two rounds of challenging exams.
The final 15 students sat more theoretical papers and also took part in practical exams. Bob was selected from here on the basis of his high-quality work, along with two other students, to be part of the Olympiad team.
“I’m looking forward to the competition,” said Bob, “and I’m especially excited about meeting the teams from other countries.”
The competition lasts for three days, and some of the challenges include a five-hour theoretical exam and an observation of the night sky under the watchful eye of an examiner.
From now until July, Bob will be part of a mentoring programme with an Oxford PhD student to help him prepare for the competition.
He will also work with a local astronomy group to develop his familiarity with telescopes and observational skills. In addition, he will attend two training camps at Oxford before departing for Central Java at the end of July.
“Because it’s in Indonesia, I won’t have seen a lot of the constellations there before,” said Bob, “and the ones that I have seen will be upside-down. It will be a challenge, but I have computer software which will help me to study them virtually.”
A man who has had more direct dealings with the night sky, retired astronaut and former commander of the International Space Station Chris Hadfield, recently gave two inspirational talks to students at Oakham School about his amazing experiences in space.
“He made it very clear how much scientific knowledge astronauts have to have,” said Bob, “which was great to see. I found it really interesting how they have to have skills to cover every eventuality.”
“This is a very impressive achievement,” said Dr John Chilton, Head of Science at Oakham School, “but in truth, Bob is a very impressive young man who, I am sure, has the potential to go on and do great things in Physics and Mathematics.
“He is a sheer pleasure to work with and we will obviously continue to support him in any way we can, both while he is at Oakham and after he leaves us.
“We certainly wish him all the very best for the Olympiad competition – I know he will be a great ambassador for the School and the country.”