Science Olympiad brings science to life for SHS kids

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The 27th annual New Mexico Science Olympiad competition will take place from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Feb. 23. The event is the state level competition, which is held every year at New Mexico Tech.

Submitted Photo by Jeffrey Tull: Sarracino Middle School students with their coach Jeffrey Tull (top left) participated in the regional Science Olympiad that took place on Jan. 26 in Silver City. Students received medals in 17 of the 23 events. The state Science Olympiad competition will take place Feb. 23 at New Mexico Tech’s campus.

The Science Olympiad is an academic competition where high school and middle school students from all over New Mexico come to Socorro and compete in teams at Tech’s campus, said New Mexico Science Olympiad coordinator Rose Baca-Rivet. Fifty teams can participate in the state Science Olympiad with up to 15 students per group with two to four coaches per team, she said.

“It introduces them to the college setting,” Baca-Rivet said. “They are competitive, brilliant students.”

Students are excited to be introduced to science, technology and math. They are recognized on academic achievements and are encouraged to carry on in these areas, she said.

High school and middle school students from all over New Mexico compete on a regional level. The top 50 schools then come to New Mexico Tech to compete. One high school and one middle school team from state will then go off to nationals.

Socorro High School’s Science Olympiad team won first place in the regional competition that took place Jan. 26 in Silver City. Coach for the Science Olympiad at Socorro High School Azza Ezzat said any student can participate in the Olympiad because it has academic assignments and building events.

Junior Will Benson participated in the competition and has participated in the Science Olympiad since the sixth grade.

“I like science and math, so I thought Science Olympiad would be good for me,” Benson said.

Benson likes working as part of a team. He said he likes to learn about the different aspects of science that will help him in college.

To prepare for the Science Olympiad, Socorro High School students met in groups every week with Ezzat or by themselves. Science Olympiad helps students develop critical thinking, problem solving and learning skills, she said. The students also learn how to research information, develop studying skills and since the students compete with other schools, they are also learning new social skills, she said.

Joseph Cutchall is a junior and has been in the Science Olympiad for three years in high school and one year in middle school. In the Science Olympiad, he has learned about engineering techniques and magnets, he said.

“It’s just really fun. I do building events because I am into engineering,” Cutchall said. “Math and science are really fun to me.”

Baca-Rivet said there was an increase in the amount of schools who participated in the Science Olympiad last year from southern New Mexico, including new schools were in Las Cruces, Roswell and Hobbs.

Submitted Photo by Thomas Guengerich: Sarracino Middle School students Alizabeth Saenz and Sawaraj Panda work together as a team at the Science Olympiad in 2010.

Each year at the Olympiad, different activities rotate over a four-year cycle. There are 38 individual events for high school and middle school students such as Disease Detectives, Food Science, Materials Science and Write It Do It, she said. There are categories for both high school and middle school students and separate categories for middle school and high school students.

“The teams all work together; they build on teamwork. That’s important,” Baca-Rivet said.

Groups of students in the Olympiad will win medals and trophies; the medals of gold silver and bronze are given out to the top 10 students for each event. The top five teams and the top two teams that make it to nationals will get a trophy, Baca-Rivet said.

Sarracino Middle School students who participated in the regional Science Olympiad won numerous medals in Silver City. Head Coach Jeffrey Tull said there were 25 students who attended the event on two separate teams with 10 students in one group, while 15 students were in another. He said the students enjoyed it tremendously, and for some it was the first time they attended the event. They started to prepare for the Olympiad in August and they met once a week and after Christmas, meeting daily, he said. There were 16 middle schools who competed in the Southwest, and together, the kids received medals in 17 of 23 events, he said.

Sarah Frail, who is a junior, joined Science Olympiad three years ago in middle school, and participated every year in high school except freshman year, she said. Frail is in Science Olympiad because she is passionate about science and math.

“I like that we learn different things, there is a huge rush during the competition and getting called up to get medals is the best feeling ever,” Frail said.

There is a Spirit Award for the team who has the most spirit, Baca-Rivet said. There is a Coach Award for high school and middle school with nominations by the students who go before a committee. The committee reads nominations and makes a choice, Baca-Rivet said. There is also a reward for the top 12 seniors who compete in the Science Olympiad who will receive a $700 college scholarship from New Mexico Tech. The Science Olympiad is hosted by volunteers of faculty, staff and student clubs every year, the volunteers give their time, hard work and energy, Baca-Rivet said. The top New Mexico high school and middle schools that win in the state Science Olympiad will compete in the national Science Olympiad at the Wright State University in Dayton, Ohio on May 17.

“I look forward to seeing them come in they (students) are so excited and happy to be here to compete,” Baca-Rivet said. It’s what I enjoy the most, it is all worth it.”