For the first time, Argentina’s national team at the prestigious International Olympiad in Informatics (IOI) has relied completely on the skills of students from a single institution “ﾓ ORT.
The IOI, which was held at Canada’s University of Waterloo, is one of the world’s top computer science competitions for secondary students and boasts UNESCO and the International Federation for Information Processing as its patrons.
At this year’s competition, which attracted 300 competitors from scores of countries, ORT Argentina students Gonzalo Avila Alterach, Martín Fixman, Lucas Tavolaro Ortíz and Ariel Zylber made history by comprising the first Argentine team drawn solely from one source.
Martin and Ariel came home bearing silver and bronze medals respectively, taking their country to second place among Latin American competitors, and adding to the five medals won by their schoolmates at science competitions held at the same time in Peru and Argentina.
At the Junior Science Olympiad held at Argentina’s National University of Cuyo, Brian Bokser, Sebastian Cherni and Gaston Salgado won gold medals and teammate Martin Polakiewicz won bronze. Brian and Sebastian were chosen to represent Argentina at the International Junior Science Olympiad in Nigeria in December.
And Melina Goldenberg won a bronze medal at the Ibero-American Biology Olympiad in Peru.
The students’ sterling performance vindicated ORT Argentina’s educational approach, said their beaming principal, Viviana Jasid, who three months ago saw an ORT team beat rivals from universities and businesses across the Americas to win a place in the world final of the Talent and Innovation Competition (TIC) in Taiwan in October.
“We stimulate and encourage the students so that they excel in the subjects they like the most,” Ms Jasid said. “In this way they can develop their full potential. That’s why we call ORT Argentina the school of opportunity “ﾓ both for students and teachers.”
Rogelio Garcia Llano, the Director of Olimpiada Informatica Argentina (OIA), the Education Ministry-backed programme which organises the domestic heats to decide who goes on to the international contest, said the school’s role was vital.
“Undoubtedly, the students’ talent and willpower were attributes required to get the best results, but it was also fundamental that the school should devote a solid infrastructure to informatics,”? Mr Garcia Llano told Argentina’s national news agency, Telam.
After being chosen for the national team, Lucas Tavolaro Ortiz, 17, praised the support provided by ORT Argentina.
“The trainers and the workshops organised during the break after lunch are crucial for our preparation,”? Lucas said.
For Ariel, who is a year younger than Lucas, the IOI was the latest sign of a burgeoning talent for science and technology. Last year he won a gold medal in the Latin America-wide May Olympiad in mathematics (beating IOI teammate Gaston Salgado to a silver) and a bronze at the international Cono Sur Mathematics Olympiad before going on to achieve an Honourable Mention at the International Mathematical Olympiad (IMO) in Germany.
And in the run-up to Canada, Ariel won gold at this year’s Cono Sur contest in Brazil as well as a bronze at the IMO, which this year was held in Kazakhstan.
Ahead of the Kazakhstan competition Ariel attributed his improving performance to the support provided by ORT as well as simple hard work on his own part.
“We have very good maths teachers and the school helps me a lot to attend the international competitions,” he said. “It would have been very much harder to advance the way I have done in maths at any other school.”
Students enjoy the social aspect of meeting similarly talented young people from around the world as well as the intellectual challenge of competing. However, encouraging their participation in these national and international contests is a process from which the whole school derives benefit, not just the individuals involved, said Luis Perez, Director of Studies at ORT Argentina’s Almagro campus.
“We are fortunate to have a good foundation of motivated students and skilled teachers that we can build on,”? Mr Perez said. “But this is not just about students winning prizes. These competitions are a way for us to involve more and more students in scientific studies. Each prize that is won raises interest in the subject and attracts more people to study it. It is part of our aim to ensure that students appreciate that knowledge has value.”?