Take one part building challenge, one part science knowledge, add heaps of team work and combine with a generous dose of fun, and you have the recipe for Science Olympiad.
A team at took on the Science Olympiad, which provides challenging problem-solving events to more than 6,000 high school and middle school teams nationwide. This year, the team of sixth and seventh-grade students, did very well. They placed third in the regional event, which was held at . They also advanced to the state competition in mid-April at the University of Missouri. At state, they placed 20th out of 32 teams.
Melissa Di Fiori, West Middle science teacher and Olympiad team coach, said doing so well was a highlight for this year’s team. Students began preparing for the competition in October 2010. They practiced twice weekly. Each team participates in 23 events.
“The events are divided into research, building and application,” said Matthew Sauer, a seventh-grade student. “In the Junk Yard challenge, you have to build something with stuff like Popsicle sticks, paper cups, straws and rubber bands.”
In the application events, teams might be directed to construct an elevated ramp to transport balls from a starting point to a collection container. They might be required to build a catapult to launch a ball and hit a target. The structures must be built using “junk” from the junkyard. Judges determine the winning device based on pre-determined requirements.
Research events involve testing on topics like the solar system, ornithology, anatomy and physiology, or topography. Testing requires students to use problem-solving skills, make inferences and predictions, and interpret and graph data. Event winners are decided by the quality and accuracy of responses.
West Middle’s team constructed an aquifer in a building event.
“Aquifers are an underground area which contains water, sort of like a storage area. It is refilled by rain, and people can use a well or pump to bring the water up for use,” said Chiron Robinson, a sixth-grade team member.
The students were given 50 minutes to construct their aquifer using a clear container, sand, gravel, syringes and a few other supplies. They were then required to explain and demonstrate the aquifer based on concepts such as the water table or groundwater contamination.
“After we built the aquifer, we were tested about ground water,” Robinson said.
West Middle’s Olympiad team is 13 members strong, and many said they joined the group because they enjoy science and the team atmosphere. Most said they plan to continue working with the Olympiad. The team is looking forward to next year’s competitions.
“I always liked science,” said Allison Worth, a sixth-grader from Creve Coeur. “When I came to West, I was looking for an activity and chose to join this club. It’s been really fun.”
“I learned a lot about the subjects I worked with,” said Joan Tao, a seventh-grader. “Being on the team has been really interesting.”
Di Fiori said she is proud of her students and the progress they made this year. “They were successful because this group of kids is dedicated and hardworking,” she said.
Students who participated in the Science Olympiad are:
Sixth-graders: Nishant Agarwal, Aaron Dorrance, Chiron Robinson, Kent Robinson and Allison Worth.
Seventh-graders: Shannon Anderson, Jordan Beveridge, Kevin Chen, Margaret Hua, Naomi Kodama, Julia Li and Joan Tao.
Assistant Olympiad coaches are Jody Eisele and Matthew Zurek, teachers at West Middle.