Last week, Cornell became the first Ivy League school to host the Science Olympiad National Tournament in 35 years. On June 1, 120 participating teams from middle schools and high schools all over the country — as well as one team from Japan — showcased their skills in fields including biology, forensic science, engineering and creative problem-solving.
The Science Olympiad is a STEM-focused, nonprofit organization that seeks to foster the next generation of scientists from local regions and also from the national stage. The tournament exposes students to subjects and hands-on opportunities that they would otherwise not encounter in their classes.
During the tournament, middle schoolers competed in Division B, which included events such as Circuit Lab, Mystery Architecture and Experimental Design, while high school students competed in Division C, which had similar events to the middle schoolers in addition to other events like Mission Possible and Sound of Music — both are building events designed to test creativity and engineering skills.
“It makes you reconsider what science is,” Amukthi Dasari, a sophomore at Enloe High School in North Carolina, told The Sun. She remarked that events like Road Scholar, a data and mapping event, have encouraged her to broaden her perspective and see the applications of science beyond the laboratory.
“Being around people who are working so hard motivates you to do a lot more,” said Dasari’s classmate Jerry Yu.
Although the main competition took place on Saturday, many teams had been on campus since Wednesday and had enjoyed a host of activities, including movie screenings, professor lectures and a STEM Expo.
Seniors Reese Johnson and Jason Provencher, from New Hampshire’s Merrimack High School, said they enjoyed touring Cornell, particularly the Department of Astronomy, where they learned about the newly offered Astrobiology minor. Their school team has qualified for Science Olympiad Nationals ten times out of the 12 years that the program has been running.
“Our goals for the future will be to keep learning and making friends through Science Olympiad, and if we will medal, it will be the icing on the cake,” said Queen Lee, coach of the Kennedy Middle School team.
Four Science Olympiad high school participants were recognized for their achievements and service with a $10,000 Founders’ Scholarship to the college of their choice: Satvik Kumar from Carmel High School in Indiana, Merline Ferro from Waterville High School in Maine, David Avery Parr from Harriton High School in Pennsylvania and Kylee Rinker from Fossil Ridge High School in Colorado.
The Lockheed Martin Spirit Award — which recognizes team whose “members exhibit sportsmanship, teamwork, team spirit and respect,” according to the Tournament press release — was presented to Harlan Rowe Middle School and Cathedral High School.
The Carteva Agriscience Enterprise Team Award was given to Ladue Middle School and West Windsor-Plainsboro South High School for outstanding performances as first-time competitors in the national tournament.
Savvas Papadopoulos ’18, co-director of the tournament, emphasized the role of the volunteers, supervisors, and staff that made the tournament possible. “It took a village -a lot of hard work from a lot of students, and it took a vision. And I think that we followed through,” Papadopoulos said.