Senior Kieran Kaempen has recently qualified for the USA Physics and USA Math Olympiad, and is a member of Math Team, Science Olympiad, and Scholastic Bowl. He is majoring in Computer Science/Mathematics at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.
What did you have to do to qualify for USA Physics and Math Olympiad?
[Mr. Riddle] registered to be part of The American Association of Physics Teachers, and once you do that, you can register students for what is called the F=ma Test, which is a 75 minute, 25 question multiple choice exam that covers the mechanics portion of physics. If you score above the [changing] cutoff score, then you qualify for the USA Physics Olympiad (USAPHO). The Math Olympiad (USAMO) is harder because you have to take two tests. One is called the AMC (AMC12 for 12th graders and below). Once you take that, and they determine the cutoff scores, you can qualify for the next level, which is the American Invitational Mathematics exam. the AMIE test is significantly harder than the AMC test, as it’s 3 hours long and 15 questions. After you take the AMIE, they multiply your AMIE score by 10, and add it to your AMC score, and that’s your USAMO index, which goes up to 300. Depending on that score, that’s what determines who qualifies for USAMO.
When did you realize you were interested in math and science?
I’m pretty sure I was decent as math back in elementary school, but then I really started liking it back in 6th grade [when] a friend gave me this book called “Secrets of Mental Math.” It was about calculations and fun little things like that, such as squaring numbers in your head, but I kind of consider that as the sort of catalyst that led me to liking math.
I understand you’re in Math Team and Science Olympiad. What events have the teams been to recently?
Our last Science Olympiad competition was March 4, and we did very well there, and I think it was one of our best showings. Our last Math Team competition was regionals, which was on the 28th, and there we had our best showing ever, because we qualified for state as a full team, which is something that Metea has never done before. That was very exciting for us, because being able to have your full team go down to state instead of just a few people [was] great.
Any advice for people looking to join Math Team?
For math team, one of the biggest things is being able to problem-solve, because once you’re able to problem-solve well, all you have to do then is become familiar with the concepts. A lot of it is experience; you might go into a competition, start taking the test, look at a problem, and go “Oh, I’ve seen this before,” because you’ve already practiced [a similar] problem before. Of course memorization is good for some things, like formulas and theorems, but the problem-solving is the real important part.
What hobbies do you like to do in your free time?
I like playing ping-pong a lot, and I’ve gotten into that in the past half a year or so. Whenever I can, I like going climbing, but I’ve only gotten into that the past year.
Author: Prashant Shankar
Prashant Shankar is an online editor with a borderline unhealthy passion for political and football analysis. He’s been an online writer for Metea since his junior year, and now serves as Chief Online Editor. Prashant’s now a senior, and while he has no clue what he’s going to do when he grows up, he’s most interested in music, computer engineering, and political science.