By Sonia BHASKARAN
According to its website, the Science Olympiad is an international, non-profit organization devoted to improving the quality of science education, increasing student interest in science and providing recognition for outstanding achievement in science education by both students and teachers. These goals are accomplished through classroom activities, research, training workshops and the encouragement of intramural, district, regional, state and national tournaments. The Science Olympiad tournaments are rigorous, academic, interscholastic competitions that consist of a series of individual and team events that students prepare for during the year.
Each year there are approximately 23 challenging and motivational events that are drawn from the various disciplines of biology, earth science, chemistry, physics, computers and technology. There is a balance between events requiring knowledge of science facts, concepts processes, skills and science applications.
Below is the one student’s experience at the Science Olympiad.
In February, I was one of 15 middle schoolers from La Cañada High School competing in the L.A. County Science Olympiad.
Months before, about 50 students divided into groups to prepare for 23 events. Under the guidance of science teacher Christine Werner and numerous other dedicated adults, we gathered information and designed contraptions.
In January, 15 competitors were chosen to represent our team for the competition. Since events sometimes required three people on a team, many of us competed in three or four events. With very little previous knowledge to help us, we had a lot to learn – and build. I spent at least 30 hours working on Scrambler, with great help from team members and parents Purnima Kuchikulla and Laura Seropian.
The day of the competition arrived in almost no time. At 7:30 in the morning, we came to Occidental College and registered at “home base:” a tent where we would eat and rest and study between events. Much of the campus was covered by tents with children wearing school T-shirts and carrying all manner of strange contraptions and chattering excitedly.
The competition was both fun and exhausting. The more events you had, the fewer breaks you got, with one-hour sessions scheduled continuously between 8:30 a.m. and 3:20 p.m. when the last event ended. Since this was our school’s first time competing, we didn’t know what to expect.
For me, the most memorable part of the day was the scrambler competition. My group had spent a long time on our egg transportation vehicle and propulsion device, and we really wanted to do well. However, we were nervous because we weren’t allowed very much time to set up. We rushed through our preparation and in the process forgot one crucial step. We got ready for our first try – and the cart didn’t move!
We weren’t certain what happened, and we only had 40 seconds to figure it out. In a hurry, we tried again. But again, it didn’t move. We thought that was it, that our turn was over, since the rules of the competition state teams only get two attempts. But then one of our parent organizers realized that neither of the two runs had counted since our vehicle hadn’t even moved an inch. The judges agreed to let us try again, but wouldn’t give us any extra time.
With only 30 seconds left, we set up our propulsion device one more time. This time we noticed our error and quickly corrected it. We were ready for our third try. We sent off our cart and this time it worked!
It was a truly wonderful moment. We didn’t have time to try again, but that was fine because we knew we had done pretty well.
The next day, the results were posted. Events in which our school team placed in the Top 10 were scrambler, air trajectory, food science, elastic launch glider, dynamic planet, bridge building, mission possible, anatomy and physiology, and fossils. Overall, our team scored 11th out of 40 teams.
We ended up winning third place in scrambler. Our hard work paid off!