Dauda Sheni, Grade 12 learner and head boy of Mitchell House, has been invited to represent South Africa at the International Physics Olympiad to be held in Lisbon, Portugal from 25 to 29 July as one of a five-learner team.
Participants will write a five hours’ theoretical paper, followed by a practical exam, also over five hours. A syllabus is provided beforehand to allow the learners to do some preparation and executive experiments.
Dauda’s journey with physics started at a very young age. “From the earliest stages of my life, I always enjoyed asking questions about how things worked. My parents said I would play with a toy until it broke and I could see what was inside. This God-given inclination towards sciences led me to take up Physical Sciences as one of my elective subjects in Grade 10,” Dauda said after the announcement of his selection was made at a ceremony at Mitchell House on Monday.
Dauda’s participation in the 2018 International Physics Olympiad is his second after he also took part in the 2017 olympiad in Yoygakarta in Indonesia. ”After writing the South African Association of Science and Technology Educators (SAASTE) National Science Olympiad in August 2016, I received a letter in December that indicated that I had been placed on the shortlist for the South African National Physics Team to represent South Africa in Indonesia. Being very excited, I spent a week or two without noticing that there was a syllabus I had to study for the final selection exam. I finally realised my error when my school’s Physical Sciences teacher sent me an email asking how I was getting along with the scope. There were many long days and sleepless nights as I prepared for the selection exam in the first week of February. With the help and academic support from my school, I made it into the team,” Dauda explained.
According to Dauda, the visit to Indonesia was a wonderful experience. “It was amazing to meet so many bright minds from countries all over the world. The hosts and the participants were very friendly and welcoming, creating an environment that was truly enjoyable. The various excursions to cultural heritage sites in Indonesia made it easy to get submerged in the beautiful culture of this interesting country,” Dauda related.
Referring to the 2017 olympiad, Dauda said that the exams were very challenging as they incorporated many university-level techniques that the participants had to learn. “The whole process is extremely confidential, and once the team arrived at the airport, all phones and electronic devices were temporarily confiscated to ensure that no one cheated on the exams. This is because the group leaders who came with us saw the exams before we did, as they had to translate the exams into different languages. The security measures ensured that no participants got early access to examination questions and information. This also meant that we only got to see the group leaders again after all the exams were finished,” Dauda explained.
Dauda did not receive any medals at the 2017 olympiad, but is confident that he will make a breakthrough this year. “I would recommend this experience to anyone who has a love for science. I am hopeful that as a member of the South African team for the 2018 olympiad, I will be able to do even better than last year. I want to thank SAASTE for the opportunity and Mitchell House College as well as my parents for the academic and financial support they have given me,” Dauda concluded.
Dauda is also a member of the school’s first cricket team and holds third place in the school’s Academic Order of Merits.
Mitchell House Headmaster, Andrew Cook says that he is delighted at Dauda’s consecutive successes in the international physics olympiads. “He continues to make Mitchell House, and also the province, proud with his achievements. He is an excellent leader, fulfilling his head leadership role with pride, setting a great example to other pupils of Mitchell House,” he says.
Story: BARRY VILJOEN