By Jenna Vespi, Jamie Boeheim, and Mia Potamianos
The Science Olympiad team at Jamesville-DeWitt High School had a good season this year, placing fifth at regionals, which was held on Jan. 31, and 18th at states, which was held March 13. Both took place at Le Moyne College. This year at states, the team did the best in simple machines, experimental design, and elastic launch glider. Also known as J-DHS SO, the Science Olympiad team consists of 20 to 30 students who compete in a variety of events involving all aspects of the STEM program (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics).
In competition, there are two categories that the events fall into. One of these groups is the “builders,” who work on preparing and building projects, such as bridges, for meets. The people in charge of the competition will have some other teachers come in and help judge the products builders make. Senior builder Patrick Saba spent his time in J-DHS SO building air cannons, cars programmed to stop at certain distances, and Rube Goldberg machines, which are contraptions that are purposely overdone to perform a very simple task. Usually these Rube Goldberg machines use a chain reaction in a very complicated way. Over his four years in the club, Saba’s favorite event to compete in was air trajectory, where he built an air cannon and had to hit targets using it.
The other, known as the “studies,” study topics on science and prepare to take a timed exam on the information. The academic tests that studiers compete in are on a variety of topics and students are given limited time to finish answering the questions, and the number of questions change every test. If there are more questions than can be answered in the time limit, unanswered questions are not counted as wrong. Members of the team said that it is common that students often will not finish. Written tests in competition are graded by a supervisor, sometimes with help from college students.
During their work time before competitions, builders pre-build experiments and test them during events in competition and the studiers will study the test topics in preparation for the test. “If you place in the top 10 in any competition, you receive a medal. If your school places in the top three, you get a trophy,” said sophomore Jake Haren. “You want the lowest amount of points, like golf or track.” After each event, the amount of points are added up. For example, if you scored one point for one event and 10 for another event you would end up with 11 points. “So you add up all the events and then the teams with the lowest amount of points win,” said Haren.
Once students join the club in September, they are assigned to either the A or B team, in which they will compete for their events for the rest of the season. The teams consist of around 15 students and are limited to seven seniors per team in order to keep them equal. Each student is usually assigned from two to three events. This year there was an increase in interest, so there were three full teams with alternates, but only the top 15 go on to states and nationals.“Chemistry and building events that are physics related are the most popular events,” said engineering teacher and building event adviser Larry Stroh.
Another adviser of the club, science teacher Michael Keenan, explained a favorite builder event called protein modeling. “(Juniors Cayla Dedrick and Sarah Nevin) worked super hard on this event. It required them to learn a computer program that shows the structures of different proteins,” said Mr. Keenan. “We started the project in January and finished it by the end of January, before Regionals,” said Dedrick. Later they started over, so that they could make the best protein model possible. “We (spent) a lot of hours to do the project, along with all of our snow days,” said Dedrick.
Some of the students that compete in Science Olympiad have been involved in the club for longer than others. In seventh and eighth grade at Jamesville-DeWitt Middle School, students have the opportunity to join Science Olympiad, such as freshman David Chen who started in seventh grade. Chen is a builder and has competed in events like bridge building, dynamic planet, and compound machines. “For bridge building I had to make a bridge that was 45 inches long and basically I tried to make the bridge as light as possible to hold the most amount of weight, and your score is based off the efficiency of the bridge. The efficiency is calculated from the weight of your bridge divided by the weight that the bridge holds,” said Chen. “I enjoy being in Science Olympiad because there are a lot of cool people there, we just do science and it’s fun.”
Most people wouldn’t consider science being a competitive sport, but in the case of J-DHS SO that is exactly what it is. If you are interested in the topics science olympiad covers, or want to learn more about the team, listen to announcements for information on club meetings next September!