Raja Oktovin, Bronze Medalist of IMO 2010

Posted on December 18th, 2010 at 10:38 am by Farah Fitriani


GNFI recently got a privilege to interview Raja Oktovin Parhasian Damanik through email. Remember him? you can read this post to remind you about him. yep, he is one of the winner of International Mathematical Olympiads 2010 which  took place in Kazakshtan.  Raja who was born in Medan, October 6, 1992 is now studying Computer Science in University of Indonesia.

What’s so funny about Raja who spent his childhood in Pekanbaru, is the fact that he sometimes, like everybody else, get bored with mathematics. but that doesn’t stop him from learning more and more. check his story out and get ready to feel proud!

When was the first time you realized that you like mathematic? What made you want to study it?

Honestly, I can’t say that I like mathematics all the time, it can get very complicated and boring. I don’t know exactly how I love mathematics, but I don’t really enjoy studying math in school. I still remember the moment elementary school that I cannot memorize the product of several integers like 7 x 8, etc, and I used to count it like 8+8+8+…+8. Once, my teacher saw me doing this, she was upset, and she asked me to get out of the classroom to memorize them all.

Math becomes interesting to me when it requires me to think logically, revealing the complexity in it, and writing the solutions to the problem as clear as possible. I hate counting and dealing with integers and formulas, it is boring.

Did your parents teach you mathematic?

They didn’t but they support me a lot.

How did you end up in joining IMO 2010? Did you apply for yourself?

Raja, representing Indonesia in IMO 2010

I got two IMOs, one in 2009 and one in 2010.

In Indonesia, IMO contestants were selected from several steps of selection tests.

Firstly, I had to be chosen to represent my school in Olimpiade Sains Kota and Olimpiade Sains Propinsi. It was in 2007, when I was in the first grade of senior high school. It was a great thing that I made it to Olimpiade Sains Nasional 2008 in Makassar (before this, I never leave Sumatra). Before the national olympiad, I and Riau team had training in University of Indonesia. My hope at that time is just that I made it to IMO Training Camp (bronze medal or better) and thanks God I did it.

Training camp is very hard but I got priceless experience and skills there. There are 3 stages of selection test, the third one is for the six chosen students as the last preparation only. In the first stage I actually failed at 19th place (only 15 students could go to stage II). When I had studied back in school like other students, I was told by my teacher that I was invited to the stage II and I think that it was the first miracle.

The second miracle happens in stage II. No one had ever predicted me to become IMO contestant, but yeah I succeeded at Asian Pacific Mathematics Olympiad 2009 and it affects 60% of my score placing me to the 4th place.

Wow, until now, if I think about it, I feel flying because it’s just a pure magic and all I can say to myself is, “It happpens to you, Raja!”

IMO 2009 was held in Bremen, Germany. I achieved Honourable Mention; decent enough for me.

Three months later, I had training camp again, stage I for IMO 2010. All stage II contestants from previous year didn’t need to take national olympiad again.

IMO 2010 training camp system had changed to 4 stages. Doing IMO 2009 helped me a lot and I made it to IMO 2010 again. IMO 2010 was held in Astana, Kazakhstan.

Wow, i didn’t know that those students had to have a training camp before competing in the olympiad. Could you tell the readers about your preparation for IMO?

Yes. There is no secret, but there are three things I always remember: Dream, Work, and Pray.

In technical term, in mathematics you do really need others to discuss, you cannot learn by yourself. You have to learn about writing solutions so that others can understand what you are talking about in your tedious  mathematical solutions (sometimes you need good hand-writing too).

By discussing, you learn a lot from people about several techniques in cracking hard and non-routine  problems. Book does help, but discussion (and challenging each other) may help a lot.

It is well-known that large forum for dicussion is very important in mathematics, such as olimpiade.org (Indonesia students) and artofproblemsolving.com (international).

So, discussing problems is the key points. Any memorable moments you have when you were there?

Nothing special but all-day happiness there. A lot of friends, laugh, and the beauty of six problems in the test. Lol.

Indonesian Team for IMO 2010

LOL. yeah, i can imagine the beauty of the problems. How did it feels when you achieved the medal?

I forgot how it felt, at that time, I felt random. Excitement, satisfaction, never blends to one. But I felt really sad because it was my last IMO. Even I do really miss all the moments in training camp and IMO itself right now when I’m writing this e-mail. IMO remains unforgettable memories for me.

Sure it does. How many international competitions that you have joined?

Just few, the only official olympiad from government I know is IMO. I wonder if I lived in Jakarta. (Raja lived in Pekanbaru before going to University in Indonesia)

could you please mention the awards that you have achieved?

Just few, too, but I got it in several fields like poem, english debate and speech, bridge, and music!

Before I enjoyed mathematics I actually participated in art-related or language-related competitions such as 1st place Pekanbaru Indonesian School Debating Championship 2007, 2nd place of Riau Poem Musicalization, and others that I cannot tell now. It was 3 years ago and it was hard to find the documents for now.

- 5th place FKIP Mathematical Olympiad Universitas Riau 2008

- Silver Medal FMIPA Mathematical Olympiad, Gebyar Matematika Universitas Riau, 2008

- Bronze Medal, Indonesia National Science Olympiad in Mathematics, Makassar, South Sulawesi, 2008

- 1st place FKIP Mathematical Olympiad Universitas Riau 2009

- 2nd place Sumatra Mathematical Olympiad (Seni Bermatematika), Univesitas Andalas 2009

-  Bronze Medal, Asia Pacific Mathematical Olympiad 2009

- Honourable Mention, International Mathematical Olympiad 2009 in Bremen, Germany

- Bronze Medal, International Mathematical Olympiad 2010 in Astana, Kazakhstan

Can’t do much because I had olympiad since 2nd grade of my senior high school in 2008.

Wow, that’s a long list. Congratulation, Raja! Anyway, What do you like to do in your free time?

Honestly, I do math. Sometimes, facebook takes my free time, too. Hehe. Updating and commenting statuses are worthful to feel my time with laugh and critical thinking.

Where did you go to school? Did you join any mathematic club in your school?

SMA Negeri 1 Pekanbaru. Yes, but I think the math club is not official, lol.

You’re studying in UI? Majoring in Computer science? Why didn’t you study mathematic?

Yes! There was actually an accident when I filled in the form of which major I’d like to choose. I wrote down Mathematics Major and Computer Science Major, but I don’t know what is going on, it seems that I wrote CS on the first choice.

One of the trainer in IMO, Pak Yudi Satria, is a lecturer in UI and he was also confused with the result. Before it was announced, he had discussed with the dean about me studying in Mathematics Major, but something is going wrong. Haha

No matter how, I got two seniors, Kak Ajat Adriansyah (FMIPA, IMC 2007 and 2008) and Kak Prastudy M. Fauzi (Fasilkom, IMO 2003 and IMC 2006) who have always become my source of spirits and ‘walkthrough’ here to study in Computer Science UI.

-end of interview-

What can we conclude from Raja’s story is that, sometimes, it is okay if we get bored with something we love, but as long as we keep doing it, we will eventually succeed. just keep dreaming, working, and praying. don’t forget that miracle happens all the time.

Thank you for a pleasant interview, Raja! once again, congratulation for your winning!

Photo Sources : Raja’s Private Collections

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