The role of young astronomers' competitions in attracting the pupils to physical sciences Vladis Vujnović Faculty of Science, The University of Zagreb firstname.lastname@example.org My intention was to find rule of thumb relating school education in astronomy with the enrollment of professional scientists, primarily astrophysicists. In Croatia astronomy is not regular school subject but it is possible, either to choose it as an optional subject, or to participate in out-of-class school groupes enganged with astronomy. Since the choice depends on the wishes of pupils and equally on the availability of trained teachers, astronomical activity is realised in relatively small number of grammar and high schools. Groups generally encompass pupils from one or several classes, and participation is lossely bound. In this way, from time to time, astronomy is live in 3 – 5 % of schools. One of the very important form of the activity is competition at different levels. Every year there are organized competitions in schools, communities or cities, counties and finaly on the state level (national astronomical olympiad). Competitions started in 1969. Different organizations were responsible for the competitions, having an executive committee, State Commission for the Competitions in Astronomy. Statistics of participants at community competitions from 1969 – 1979, and at county competitions from 1999 - 2007 is given in the Fig. 1. Nowadays number is stabilized at 250 participants in grammar schools, and 100 participants in high schools. For the state competition invited are about 100 participants. COMPETING PARTICIPANTS 1000 ELEMENTARY SCHOOL NUMBER HIGH SCHOOL 100 10 1968 1978 1988 1998 2008 YEAR Fig 1. A large percentage of pupils had within these activities the first real touch with the science. Those who were successfull at the competitions were ipso facto motivated to study physical sciences and eventually to become professionals. One may ask, what are conditions necessary to convert amateur astronomer to scientists – physicists or astrophysicists? What is supporting environment in which grows school activity? In the Croatian case several facts should be stressed. In Croatia there are 4 350 000 inhabitants, two dozen astronomical amateur societies with own instruments, including 4-5 very active observatories, and one planetarium. Each year there are several astronomical open-air camps. Astronomy can be partially studied at two universities, with specialisation at the post-graduate level. Table 1. lists the professional astronomers, by their initials, affiliations and professional interest, who participated in the competitions. Table 1. PARTICIPATION SCIENTIST POSITION AND INTEREST TIME (ROUGHLY) 1970 K. P. Department of Physics, The University of Zagreb, stellar physics, close binaries and variable stars 1970 Ž. A. Faculty of Mining, Geology and Petroleum Engineering, Zagreb, instrumental techniques 1970 E. F. Department of Physics, University of Virginia, Charlottesville, meson physics 1970 H. B. Hvar Observatory, Zagreb, variable stars 1970 B. V. Hvar Observatory, Zagreb, solar physics, flares 1975 Ž. I. Princeton University, Astrophysical Sciences Department, and University of Washington, Department of Astronomy, SDSS, LSST 1975 R. B. Hvar Observatory, Zagreb, solar physics, spectroscopy 1985 D. D. Faculty of Philosophy, Rijeka, binary bodies, microlensing 1995-2000 M. J. Institute for Advanced Study, Princeton, 1979 discovered several comets and large galactic and extragalactic structures The score is: nine scientists in nearly forty year – who in their youth competed. The approximate rule is the following: 9 scientists 400 participants 2,4 scientists per decade 40 . 3,8 decades 4 year engagement Conclusion. Only 2,4 % of heavily interested pupils become astronomers. The note: Approximately equal number of pupils become professional astronomers although they have not participated in competitions or have not been embraced by astronomical education in grammar and high school educational system.
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