Hundreds of middle and high school students descended on Wright State’s Dayton campus.
Some came with lab coats and safety goggles. Others toted field guides on subjects from astronomy to ornithology. Many carried delicate homemade helicopters, towers or mousetrap cars.
You couldn’t see it, but each brought two more things with them: a love of science and a burning desire to compete.
Saturday marked Wright State University’s first-ever Science Olympiad Invitational. It was one of two that the university will stage before hosting the National Science Olympiad Tournament in 2013.
Magsig won first place in the middle school division and Centerville took home first place in the high school division. Both teams hail from Centerville, Ohio.
Science Olympiad gives students the opportunity to compete in 46 science and engineering events.
One event, “Junkyard Challenge,” asks students to build bridges and towers out of household materials like cups and duct tape. For some of those students, the challenge sparks a passion for engineering.
“I want to be an aerospace engineer and I know this will help that,” said Jackson Sanbourne from West Liberty Salem’s middle school team.
Classrooms, labs, auditoriums and gymnasiums in at least 10 Wright State buildings were used for the invitational, giving the students a chance to explore a college campus.
In the Student Union Atrium, Northmont High School student Nana Anim competed in the “Sumo Bots” event. Her goal was to use her homemade robot to push another team’s robot out of a square drawn on the floor in red tape.
“It’s like sumo wrestling,” she said. “But with robots.”
Anim’s current device is her second attempt at the event. It took her just over three weeks to design and assemble, but many more hours to learn to battle with it.
“I practice every chance I get because it’s fun,” she said.
Across the large room, Molly Baumann and Nicole Kleinas from Westerville North showed judges their “Mission Possible” project. The event requires participants to link many simple machines together into a large, Rube Goldberg-like device designed to release a helium balloon bearing the team’s name.
Science Olympiad is a national nonprofit organization whose mission is to improve the quality of science education, increase interest in science, attract more students to science careers, foster teamwork, emphasize the problem-solving aspects of science and develop a technologically literate workforce.
John Reeves from Big Walnut High School said his favorite event was “Forensics,” where students analyze fingerprints, blood samples and chemicals to solve a mock crime.
“I think that you have to think outside the box and piece all these different clues together,” he said.
About 1,500 students and coaches from 76 teams participated in the all-day competition. They came from all over Ohio and from several surrounding states. A middle school team from Friendship Christian School in Lebanon, Tenn. came the farthest.
“We’re from just east of Nashville, so we have about a six-hour drive to get here,” said Friendship Christian head coach Jason Miller. The team chartered a bus to make the journey, stopping in Cincinnati to visit a science museum.
“We come a long way to compete here because the competition is very good in Ohio,” added Jacque Pulliam, an assistant coach for the team. “It’s a wonderful opportunity for the kids.”
Pulliam has two of her own children on the Friendship Christian team. She said her daughter aspires to be a doctor, so an anatomy event has really helped her get a head start on her career.
“We have practice almost every day after school,” said Pulliam. “These kids are really dedicated because they love it.”