Science Olympiad Team Heading To State Competition

The Anthony Wayne High School Science Olympiad team, formed in December, is heading to the state competition on Saturday, April 27 after placing sixth at the regional competition last month. MIRROR PHOTO BY KAREN GERHARDINGER

BY KAREN GERHARDINGER | MIRROR REPORTER — Anthony Wayne High School might have the newest Science Olympiad team in Ohio, but its members’ years of STEM-related experiences and enthusiasm for learning make up for a short track record.

After competing in one invitational Science Olympiad event in January, the team nabbed sixth place in the regional competition in March – earning an invite to the Ohio Science Olympiad in Columbus on Saturday, April 27.

“Many are AP and honors students and have natural abilities that they have honed in and out of the classroom,” said advisor Justin Dowling. “I think what sets these kids apart is that they are active learners and have an inquiry attitude. They are curious and they’re not being told what they need to know.”

After hearing from friends on Science Olympiad teams at Sylvania Northview and Southview high schools, sophomore Arjun Jayaraman teamed up with senior Tyler Pellek and sophomore Aradhya Muthumula and formed what is yet to be an official school club. Convincing Dowling to be their advisor was a major first step, Arjun said.

“My job is to facilitate the students’ passion,” Dowling said. “They do 99 percent of the work.”

That work included researching the process for registering the team with the national Science Olympiad program – a STEM competition that was launched in 1984 and now has more than 6,000 teams in 50 states. The academic competition hosts teams of 15 students who compete in 23 events spanning scientific disciplines including physics, chemistry, biology, earth science, engineering, inquiry and space science.

The competition will include hands-on building challenges, such as the Scrambler – named for the egg that will be placed on the front of a car that twins Caleb and Owen Finkler were testing last week in the hallway.

With a launcher made of old bed slats and a car made of wood, old CDs for wheels and bolts with wing nuts for the axle, the goal is to drop a weight that propels a car toward a barrier, stopping it before a collision that would crack the egg, the twins explained. The distance from the launch point to the obstacles they’ll have to maneuver around won’t be revealed until the time of the competition.

“They have to, on the fly, calculate or adjust for the situation,” Dowling said. “They’re learning how energy is transferred from the falling weight to the car and how to get the right amount of energy to control the car. It’s one of the more complicated builds.”

Owen and Caleb credit experience from Todd Heslet’s high school engineering classes for giving them the understanding – and materials – to design the launcher and car.

Some of the other build projects have included a wind-up plane that is judged on how long it stays in the air and a ping pong ball launcher designed to have balls hit certain targets, Tyler added.

While the twins – seniors who are heading to The Ohio State University to major in engineering – prefer build projects, other team members are focused on studying for tests on a range of science subjects, many of which they’ve never learned in high school. The students choose tests based on their interests.

Aradhya, who Tyler dubbed the team’s “anatomy guru,” partnered with Summer Link in a competition called Disease Detectives.

“You’re given symptoms and characteristics of an unidentified disease, and you have to figure out what you think it is,” said Aradhya. “We had a lot of fun and we did better than we thought. We placed seventh out of 20.”

Preparing for tests requires studying several hours a week on content available through the national Science Olympiad website.

“It’s more intense than I expected, but it’s been a lot of fun,” said Aradhya, who also partnered with sophomore Zoe Doro to take a test on fossils during the regional competition.

“The fossils test was challenging,” Zoe said, explaining that instead of seeing an actual sample, she and Aradhya had to identify the right fossil by looking at photos online.

Zoe and her brother, freshman Kennedy Doro, partnered on a geological mapping test, while Kennedy also participated in a Write It, Do It competition. That involved one team member writing detailed instructions to guide the other in how to complete a task.

“It’s about writing and communicating clearly on paper,” Kennedy said.

Joining Science Olympiad is a great way to get exposure to a variety of subjects and to add an extracurricular activity to a college resume, the students agree.

Aanya Kakrecha, Myky Tu and Zoe are all interested in becoming doctors.

“It’s a good way to be introduced to the field,” said Aanya, a junior whose goal is to become a surgeon. Myky’s goal is orthopedics, while Zoe would like to become a pediatrician.

While she is interested in science, Aradhya has her eyes set on a career in business. And Tyler, who has been accepted into Princeton University, plans to major in math and minor in economics for a career in something finance-related.

Over the four months since the Science Olympiad team formed, the team has changed as members’ schedules fluctuate and some can’t make it to the state competition. Aanya and Myka just joined a few weeks ago and are studying in preparation. Just seven seniors can compete, and that’s a good thing, Arjun and Tyler agree. It gives underclassmen and seniors a chance to know each other, and it prepares the team for the future.

“The goal is to split the team evenly. That way, we have a lot of freshmen, so next year we don’t have to recruit a lot of new people – and we can keep the club going,” Arjun said.

Team members this first season also include James Geary, Connor Link, Brayden Loo, Dylan Loo, Benjamin Ni, Kevin Ni, Ryan Parker, Evan Raezer and Cole Zdunczyk.

As AW enters its second year in Science Olympiad, Dowling said the team will need to decide whether to add a second team and recruit a science teacher to be an advisor. The team will also need to raise money to cover the cost of accessing Science Olympiad materials, entering competitions and ordering team T-shirts.

Watching the team gathered in the media center last week, Dowling marveled at how the students demonstrate the Portrait of a General competencies that are encouraged from kindergarten on, including adaptability and flexibility, communication and collaboration, critical thinking, empathy and learner’s mindset.

“These kids really have a desire to learn,” he said.

Check Also

Maumee Middle School Hosts 23 Local Vendors During Health Fair

BY KRISTI FISH | MIRROR REPORTER — It’s Mental Health Awareness Month, and at Maumee Middle School, …