Area schools compete in Science Olymiad REgional Competition
February 15, 2017
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The 30th annual Illinois Science Olympiad Regional Competition was held at Western Illinois University, with 10 junior high school teams and seven high school teams participating.
Two divisions, consisting of the B Division for junior high students and C Division for the high school students, competed in 23 total events, with each event having a different set of rules and judging parameters.
“Most of the events are done in pairs,” said Regional Science Olympiad director Don Powers. “Some of the events are a written test or they are performance-based tests. Students enter through their schools. The schools will get a rulebook of all the rules to cover the different events.”
The purpose of the Science Olympiad is to promote teamwork and let students experience risktaking, strategic thinking and decision- making. Students use technology as well as engineering skills to accomplish projects in various science disciplines.
“The projects were very interesting because the students had to use some critical thinking and problemsolving skills in order to make the helicopters and airplanes better,” said student assistant Emily Hendricker. “They tweak the projects through every practice run, and it was very cool to see the wheels turning in their mind. The hands-on experience is something that I wish I had the chance to do in middle school and high school.”
The stakes for the competing schools were a chance at moving on to higher-level competition. “From here, we will send two high schools and three junior high schools to the state competition,” Powers said. “Whichever team wins the state competition will go on to the national competition.”
More than 200 middle school and high school students participated in the Science Olympiad at Brophy Hall. Among these students were Lewistown Junior High School students Max and Tanner Johnson.
The two students participated in the experimental design event in which they had to build a tower structure that was efficient at supporting weight. According to Max, their process for building their structure tested their knowledge of physics concepts.
“We made four sides and used horizontal pieces too so that it could hold weight effectively,” said Max. “We used balsa wood and superglue to hold the structure together.”
“It’s a good experience for the students,” said Macomb Junior High Coach Maria Montalvo. “They get to try things out and work together to prepare for an event. These are things that they usually cannot get in the classroom.”
Events ranged from tests with bottle rockets to wind power, giving science students a wide variety of options to choose from. They are not limited to a single event and so it is possible for them to compete in multiple.
Events such as the helicopter and Wright Stuff, named for the aeronautic engineers the Wright brothers, are judged on performance. Projects were judged on how long they could stay in the air.
“They are both similar in the sense that both are rubber band powered,” said event supervisor and Farmington Head Coach Jeff Wyers. “The helicopter has to weigh over 2.5 gallons and the goal is to keep the helicopter aloft for as long as possible. The same goes for the airplane event as its goal too is to stay in the air for as long as possible.”
The B Division finished with Farmington Central Junior High in first, Macomb Junior High in second and Mercer County Junior High in third. These three middle schools will move on to the state competition in April.
The two high schools moving on to the state competition are Farmington High School, which finished in first, and Canton High School, finishing second.
“We are fortunate to have a program that keeps on going,” said Wyers. “We have high school kids that work with the junior high kids and it just turns out to be a great team effort.”