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Learners excel in Physics

York High School leaner and winner of the Gold Certificate and SAIP Medal for SAPhO 2018, Matthew Johnstone.

On Friday, 8 September 2018 the South African Institute of Physics (SAIP) announced the South African Physics Olympiad (SAPhO) results, which included the participating schools and the learners who excelled in the SAPhO exam.

Over 100 learners from 69 schools were selected to write SAPhO 2018, from the almost 30 000 participants who wrote the South African National Youth Science Olympiad (SANYSO).

“South Africa, like every other country in the world, has amongst its youth a latent talent that needs to be identified, nurtured and monitored, to allow them to reach their full potential”, says SAPhO Convener, Case Rijsdijk. “There are talent scouts for potential sportsmen and women, why not for maths and sciences? After all, our future lies in education and a technologically based economy. Identifying future scientists and engineers is essential, and SAPhO is one pathway to success,” he says.

Learners who did well in any other recognised science competition or Olympiad were invited to take part in SAPhO 2018, which took place on Monday, 13 August 2018. The results for SAPhO 2018 were most satisfactory, with an average mark of 41%. The range of marks was from 76% to 21%. The organisers hope to increase the SAPhO footprint by attracting closer to 300 learners to participate in the Olympiad next year; it might become an on-line Olympiad, in which case more learners will get the opportunity to write SAPhO.

Matthew Johnstone, a grade 12 learner from York High School in George, Western Cape, was the top scoring learner in this year’s Olympiad with a score of 76%. He will receive a Gold Certificate, R2 000 cash prize and the SAIP Medal, which will be presented to him at the Annual SAIP Conference dinner at the University of Venda, in July 2019.

“Matthew is one of the bright young minds in South Africa. His understanding of scientific problems and analytic mindset is outstanding. Above all, he is willing to help other students, explaining complex substance in a way that makes it easy,” said Koos van Tonder, one of Johnstone’s teachers at York High School.

Johnstone himself said, “Physics is my passion, and I want to study theoretical physics, not because of a job I can get, but because for as long as I can remember, I’ve had questions about the universe that only physics can answer”.

In second place was Graham Mitchell, a grade 12 learner from Pretoria Boys High in Gauteng, and last year’s Bronze Certificate winner, who won this year’s Silver Certificate with a score of 75%. He will receive a R1 500 cash prize as well as a Special Award Certificate for this remarkable achievement. Adri Wessels from Curro Durbanville scooped third place with a score of 71%, which entitled her to a Bronze Certificate and R 1 000 cash prize.

Learners who scored between 70% and 60% we awarded Merit Certificates by SAPhO for their achievements, with those who scored between 59% and 50% receiving Honourable Mention Certificates. The remaining learners will receive Participation Certificates to acknowledge their participation in the Olympiad.

The SAPhO Convener, Case Rijsdijk, said that he is grateful to the DST and SAASTA, for their support and funding. Rijsdijk also voiced his thanks to the SAIP Executive Officer, Brian Masara, and the Project Manager, Ndanganeni Mahani for all their efforts in making SAPhO a success, and finally, Peter Waker from Interware, for analysis of the results.

SAPhO is hosted by SAIP, with the aim of identifying young South Africans with an aptitude for Physics, in the hope that these leaners will continue to study Physics at tertiary level.

SAIP is the voice for Physics in South Africa. It is a professional body for practising physicists in a variety of disciplines ranging from Cosmology to Medical Physics. One of the several SAIP goals is to educate and raise awareness of the importance of Physics in our daily lives.