Incoming first-year students bring home multiple medals from international geography competition

Friday, August 23, 2019

Team Canada posing for a photo

Team Canada in Hong Kong. From left to right: Jerry Sun, Andrew Ding, Jake Douglas, and Ben Woodward. Photo by Paul VanZant.

For the last 16 years, top high school geography students from around the world have gathered to put their knowledge to the test at the International Geography (iGeo) Olympiad. The iGeo Olympiad is a competition consisting of three different aspects: a written test, a multimedia test and an observed fieldwork exercise (leading to cartographic representation and geographical analysis). The students join the competition as a team representing their home country, but participate in the tests individually. Among the 43 teams competing was a group of four from Canada. Ben Woodward, Andrew Ding, Jake Douglas, and Jerry Sun were selected to represent Team Canada based on their geography involvement at the high schools they attended.

Although Canada has only participated in the competition for the past two years, this group of students proved their skills and talent. The team returned with multiple awards, including tying for first place in the poster category for their project on how the Greater Toronto Area is Canada’s smart city (as well as the “favourite poster” award), a gold medal for Ben Wodward who placed third out of all the students, and a silver medal for Andrew Ding. Overall, Team Canada placed 17th out of the 43 teams.

"Being able to see the similarities and contrasts between yourself and other participants shows you the unique identity and culture each country has while demonstrating the interconnection of our world", says Andrew Ding. "From learning Kiwi slang to the politics of Hong Kong, iGeo gave us an inside view on the world around us."

Various teams huddled together at the iGeo competition

Andrew Ding’s passion for geography started at a young age. He constantly found himself encapsulated in the maps his father would bring home, even creating his own of fictional places. Last school year, Ding ran the online Canadian Geographic Challenge for his school’s trivia club where he placed in the top 20 scores nationally. This qualified him for the next stage of competition where he was asked to join Team Canada at the iGeo Olympiad after placing within the top 4. Andrew begins his study of geomatics in the Faculty of Environment this fall. He originally saw himself pursuing statistics, but has always had an interest in geography. After considering other programs, he found a perfect compromise of his passions and interests with geomatics. Ding is excited to continue to develop his passion for geography in the Faculty of Environment and looks forward to meeting his peers.

Ben Woodward is entering Geography and Environmental Management this fall here in the Faculty of Environment. What drew Ben to the University of Waterloo was the opportunities he would be exposed to during his studies that allow him to apply his knowledge to the real world. Ben first became interested in geography while travelling with his family to places like Haida Gwaii, British Columbia. This interest was further pursued in highschool where his geography teacher introduced Woodward to the Canadian Geographic Challenge, a national competition in which he went on to place first. After this, Ben started competing in iGeo Olympiads. In the coming years at the University of Waterloo, Ben looks forward to being able to focus his studies on geography and to challenge himself academically.

Congratulations to Team Canada, and we look forward to welcoming Andrew Ding and Ben Woodward this fall!


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