Contrasting Experiences (Part 1)

Despite the end of SPM, December is really a hectic month for me–I attended two camps in Klang Valley. Yes, two, and they were 3 days apart.

They were IMO 2014 Camp 1 and MCO 2014 Training Camp. They are contrasting, indeed.

Part 1: IMO 2014 Camp 1.

Venue: Pusat Permata Pintar, UKM, Bangi, Selangor. (A place where we had training camps for IMO 2013.)

Date: 14 (Sat)-18 (Wed) December 2013. (?????? Those days it was Fri-Tue, what happened? Perhaps, availability?)

So, what’s the plans prior to the camp? Packing my bags, doing some reading (since I were rusty of Mathematical Olympiad after 4 months of leave since IMO 2013), blah blah blah… But what were more important:

1. Transport. As a graduated student, it didn’t seem appropriate for me to request the school to arrange everything for us again. I was optimistic enough to hope for transport from JPN again. Unfortunately, no transport from JPN for this camp. Sigh!

Thanks god! Kin Aun dealt warily with school by booking a van who provides transport for school students through the principal, and we tried our best to be tactful by inviting other Penang students to join the trip by van. So, 14/12/13, 7:30 am, we “boarded” the van. Ready, set, go!

2. Facilitating. Learning in the camp is important, but what’s meaningful was if we could contribute something to PERSAMA and the IMO Malaysia training team as a token of gratitude for training us for past few years. Besides trainers like Mr. Suhaimi, Mr. Ikhwan, Mr, Irwan and Prof. Daud as experienced trainers, with Mr. Loke (Silver in IMO 2008,09) and Dr. Tan (UM lecturer) as new trainers, some of us who were returning from IMO 2013 were facilitators to help juniors. Tough job!

What’s tougher was Justin and I were appointed to give a lecture on Geometry for juniors on 9th December. Hmm……Justin is recognised as a geometry pro among IMO trainees (and even trainers!)…so he would have a batter plan on what to cover in camp 1. This didn’t mean that I could escape job and let Justin settle everything, especially when he was busier than me for that week. So, from LaTeX clarity, correcting typo, checking whether juniors understood stuffs in handout…everything had to be done scrupulously.

After massive topics hunting, problems creating and “LateXing”, all handouts were successfully sent to Mr. Suhaimi by email one day before the camp. What’s next? Green light obtained later. Yay! 🙂

Brief introduction of Pusat Permata Pintar (here I call it as “Permata”)

Being situated in Bangi, which developed into a city because of its education opportunity, “Permata” is well-equipped with facilities, including laboratories for Sciences and Computer, indoor badminton court and gymnasium. There was a piano in the court, but where was it during the camp? You will know it later…

However, two surprises encountered by some of my friends:

1. Apparently, telephone signal in the hostel was weak: one of my friend tried to contact his mum after arrival, but in vain attempt. How about this essence of surprise: Wi-fi signal was better!

2. “Permata” is situated near to jungle, so you should expect innocuous but somehow creepy creatures (commonly known as “alien” by some of them :O ) to have a visit (especially toilets in the hostel). Time to say “hello” to insects that we would never see them anywhere in our real life. Eg. ladybugs with extra wings, and butterflies greater than your palm. A wildlife sanctuary, indeed!

14/12/13: Journey started. Besides school teacher (Mr. Chan), CLB kids (Kin Aun, Anson and Joanna), we had 2 “under-aged” guys (They are Std 6 and F1 as of 2013, which were considered young in IMO camp), one girl from PCGHS and 2 guys from Phor Tay on the van. We arrived at about 2:30 pm, and had free session till dinner time at 7pm.  Therefore, we temporarily forgot maths, and enjoyed our game: 52 “bicycles”. Purpose of the game was simple: the player who finished disposing his bicycles first wins.

I remembered in December 2011 (BIMO 2012 camp 1), a junior claimed it as exercise in Combinatorics (since profuse use pigeonhole principle is required in planning strategies). Extraneous, right? Yes, but there is a past TOT problem had it as its theme. Eg. 2004 Spring, Senior A-Level, P6:

8:00 pm: welcoming remarks from Prof. Arsmah, the chairwoman of IMO Training in Malaysia. Well, not effusive, but every word from her counts and carries a lot of weight. Same goes for some remarks + rules from Mr. Suhaimi, and basically that was all for the night.

15-16 Dec:
Both days were similar to me, following the typical schedule of: lectures in the morning, tests in the afternoon, and lectures again at night. I was in the junior room all the time as a facilitator (including exam where every senior sat for the tests in the same room with juniors). The only difference was: Justin and I gave lectures in Monday morning, and that was the time we realized that knowing and teaching are not the same. Moreover, it was a no good experience to teach without notes and to do last-minute printing–turned out that I failed in planning!

I had a great room of improvement, even in facilitating –my only “achievement” was to present the solution of proving 10^{3n+1} cannot be written as sum of 2 cubes, where I spent 30 minutes to write and explain my solutions before being shown the existence of 1 line solution (using mod 7).

17-18 Dec: Seniors took TOT papers for these two days (O-Level on Tuesday and A-Level on Wednesday). Since the problems are not posted on official website, I would not comment much here. (However, I was lucky enough that my performance for the tests didn’t fall below my expectations despite 4 months of leave from MO). Note: will edit and say more after problems are posted on official website.

Edit (21/1/2014): the TOT problems are now on the official website:

Senior O-Level:
Senior A-Level:

The commentary will be posted in a separate post.

Okay, enough about Mathematics. Now let’s have a digression from the main topic. For food, no comment from me since I am not fussy with food.

However, a piano was present in the dining hall! Yeah, excitement grew in some of us who achieved a Grade 6+/ Diploma level–this showed that music and maths are strongly related. Interesting, right? Well, it was more than 3 months since my ALCM piano exam, but I was still looking for complacency of being able to play piano. Ivan, who played Liebesträume (Dream of Love), captivated me for his rich expression to communicate with the piece and his superb dexterity of playing difficult passages. Justin, on the other hand, played through a section of his exam piece (composed by Brahms), which, in my first impression, a warm piece, and a contrast to my exam pieces: Beethoven’s Pathetique sonata (except 2nd movement which is slower) and Bartok’s Rondo (generally playful, eg. note-chord texture and syncopation).

Leisure time: of course bicycle “riding”, I remembered how I rode home enormous amount of them after caught bluffing, or mistakenly caught several “innocent” players.

So, end of the camp after taking TOT A-Level which squeezed my brain to the maximum, and I boarded the same van again to get into my Home Sweet Home. Let’s have a rest first, and get energized before the MCO camp 3 days later.

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