Published: 28th July 2021
Meet the Hyderabad students who bagged top honours at this int'l astronomy challenge
Oregunta Sai Varun from Geethanjali College of Engineering and Technology and Sathwik Bikumalla from LPU participated in International Astronomy and Astrophysics Competition (IAAC 2021)
Space is infinite and so are its secrets. Both have enraptured Oregunta Sai Varun to no end, right from his childhood. In a quest to solve these mysteries, he keeps participating in contests like the International Science Olympiad, but it was while participating virtually in the recent International Astronomy and Astrophysics Competition (IAAC 2021) that the 19-year-old won the Silver Honour, his biggest achievement till date. This student of Geethanjali College of Engineering and Technology, Hyderabad was also listed among the top eight per cent of the participants from around the world.
Similarly, Sathwik Bikumalla from Hyderabad who is currently pursuing Aerospace Engineering from Lovely Professional University, Jalandhar, Punjab, won the Gold Honour and was listed among the top two per cent of participants. It's the same student who participated in ISRO's World Space Week quiz on the theme Satellites Improve Life and won the first prize.
Getting back to the IAAC, this prestigious online competition for budding astronomers and astrophysicists has three rounds — qualifiers (five astronomy problems), pre-final round (four basic and four advanced problems with two research problems) and the final round is an exam with 30 multiple-choice questions. We ask these space-crazy students about how they fared and their interest in the above and beyond.
Sai Varun and Sathwik Bikumalla | (Pic: Sai Varun and LPU)
Space in his lens
After the announcement was made about IAAC, Sai Varun had about two months to strengthen his knowledge in Physics and Math plus, solving as many questions as he could. "As a result of my preparation, I was able to sail through the first and the second rounds, but due to server issues, the finale was a challenge. Otherwise, I would have definitely bagged the gold honour," says the second-year Mechanical Engineering student confidently. Academically, his field might be different but his interest towards astronomy has been a driving factor for him. So much so that he has also turned into an astrophotographer and using his telescope, he keeps track and observes astronomical events like the conjunction of Jupiter and Saturn which happened in December 2020 and Perseids meteor shower, even if it means getting up at ungodly hours. "Additionally, websites like in-the-sky.org are my favourite," says the youngster who takes up courses related to the universe on MOOCs.
Aiming for the sky
What participating in challenges like IAAC really does for Sathwik Bikumalla is give him a chance to analyse his own strengths and weaknesses. It also helps him build a network. That's why he never misses out on the chance of applying for them. And for someone who has read several books on astronomy and astrophysics since childhood, he likes to test his knowledge. "Because of the pandemic, I was short on physical resources, but LPU helped me on that front. Dr Amit Kumar Thakur (Head of Department for Aerospace Engineering at LPU) and his guidance was of great help to me," says the 17-year-old. Thus, to prepare for the competition, Sathwik made full use of e-resources, e-library and the digital repository of the university. But this Hyderabad-born youngster's aim is to prepare and attempt UPSC in the year 2025. Until then, he is happy to nurse the various hobbies he pursues.
For more on the challenge check out iaac.space