Olympiad tests students’ science skills on the spot
By Michelle L. Quinn Post-Tribune correspondent February 15, 2014 11:38PM
LaTaya Norton and Franco Komyatte work on finishing documenting their observations of an unknown powder in which they used thermometers, capacitance meters and several other tools to analyze the material at Purdue Calumet on February 15, 2014. | Jim Karczewski\For Sun-Times Media
Science Olympiad Results
Middle School Division
1. Wilbur Wright Middle School, Munster, 51
2. George Rogers Clark Middle School, Hammond, 105
3. St. John the Baptist, Whiting, 111
4. Hammond Academy of Science and Technology, 116
5. Forest Ridge Academy, Schererville, 129
High School Division
1. Munster High School Red Team, 53,
2. Munster High School Black Team, 53
3. Munster High School White Team, 79
4. Whiting High School Green Team, 83
Updated: February 16, 2014 10:10AM
HAMMOND — Last year, Wilbur Wright Middle School Science Olympiad team member Ajeyo De took note of his teammates’ entry in the Robo Egg Drop event and why it went wrong.
So when he and his partner, eighth-grader Ian Brundidge, went to craft their propeller for the 23rd annual Science Olympiad Regional competition at Purdue University Calumet on Saturday, the trick was sticking to the Da Vinci design used last year but alternating the wings. And even Saturday, it wasn’t quite perfect because its descent still was too fast.
“The weight of the egg, air and gravity bring it down,” Brundidge said after he and De made their drop. “It can’t be a parachute design, and it must spin.”
“And it has to be 47 centimeters by 47 centimeters by 47 centimeters,” De added.
PUC Regional Coordinator Sharon Schleigh said jokingly that the competition’s purpose is to make kids work more because they don’t have enough school work during the week, but she wasn’t far off the money. For all the work the kids do in school, not as much is spent doing hands-on activities using science, technology, engineering and math.
“During a science fair, students conduct their work and present, while at Olympiad, they’re competing within smaller time frames ... ,” Schleigh said. “They demonstrate and build things on the spot.”
Some of the competition is written, such as Disease Detectives, where teams are given a set of symptoms and are required to determine the disease, while other events, such as MagLev and Scrambler, entail a ton of outside prep.
“With Scrambler, the teams need to build a car, put an egg in it and run it down a track facing a wall. The object is to get it as close to the wall as possible without crashing into it and crushing the egg” Schleigh said. “They have to know where the car’s going to stop and at what speed it can go.”
Perhaps the coolest-sounding event, MagLev, has team members building a car that, in theory, is supposed to levitate along a track using magnets. It’s not usually a favorite among competitors, though.
“It is the most technically demanding,” said volunteer Craig Holland, who’s a physicist at Argonne National Laboratory near Lemont, Ill. “Getting your device to work is such a fickle thing. We had the test track on one side of the room, and it wouldn’t work for anyone, but then it did when we moved it. Half of the teams succeeded.”
Their determination impressed Holland immensely.
“The East Chicago (Central) team finished with five minutes to spare, but then they came up to me and asked for advice on the questions they didn’t get. It’s that kind of ethic that’s going to get them hired at Argonne or FermiLab. It’s very encouraging.”
The top four high schools and top five middle schools will head to the state competition March 22 at Indiana University Bloomington.