Riley Chapman is congratulated by Mike Graney, Ticonderoga High School principal, after winning a bronze medal at the International Earth Science Olympiad in Italy.
A Ticonderoga teen has proven himself to be among the best earth science students in the world.
Riley Chapman, a junior at Ticonderoga High School, earned a bronze medal at the International Earth Science Olympiad held in Modena, Italy last month.
Chapman, the son of Glen and Malinda Chapman, was one of 114 high school students from 23 nations to test his skills in disciplines such as geology, meteorology, environmental science and terrestrial astronomy. Each country was eligible to send a team of eight teens — four to compete and four alternates. Chapman, who was selected on the basis of a written exam taken at the University of Vermont, earned one of the four competitor berths for the United States.
“It was a bit intimidating at first,” Chapman said of the experience. “Some of these people had been preparing for years. The Asian countries take this very seriously. But during my first lab practical I realized I could compete. I became comfortable quickly.”
The International Earth Science Olympiad had students take written exams, placed competitors with people from other nations for projects, required field work, demanded labs and more.
Chapman worked with students from Singapore, Taiwan, Spain and Sri Lanka on one project. He was paired with an Indian competitor on another.
“He was exactly on my level,” Chapman said the Indian student. “It was really neat to work with someone from the other side of the world. I liked him and we learned a lot.”
One of the projects required a field investigation of an aquifer in the northern Italian province of Valled’aosta. After completing the field work, the students presented their findings to a panel of scientists, who evaluated their work.
Chapman was at a bit of a disadvantage since he is a junior. Other competitors were seniors and had completed physics. Still, he felt well prepared coming from Ti High.
“I’ve learned a lot here (Ticonderoga) and the school has done a great job preparing me,” Chapman said. “There were some physics questions I had trouble with, but I could answer them now that I’m taking physics.”
Mike Graney, Ti High principal, said Chapman deserves all the credit.
“We’d like to take credit for Riley’s accomplishments, but he’s a very motivated young man,” Graney said. “We’re proud of him and I’m certain he’ll continue to be very successful.”
As in past years, Taiwanese students dominated the competition. Three of the four Taiwan students won gold medals.
“In Taiwan this is a very big deal,” Chapman said. “If you win a gold medal in Taiwan the government will pay for your education.”
But Americans have one major advantage over their Asian counterparts, Chapman noted.
“Americans are more likely to question authority; to ask questions,” he said. “That’s a great thing in science. A lot of Asians are hesitant to ask questions because they don’t want to appear disrespectful.”
Chapman learned about the International Earth Science Olympiad from his brother, Ben, who competed in the 2009 event in Taiwan.
Like his brother, who is now studying engineering in college, Chapman hopes to become an engineer.