This Saturday, March 26, more than 600 people from 39 middle and high schools will gather at Millersville University from across the state to participate in the annual Pennsylvania Science Olympiad. Students from these schools will be competing in a variety of different events focused on science, technology, engineering and mathematics.
The Science Olympiad is a tournament where teams of 15 students use their STEM skills to engineer something, like an accurate time-keeping piece for example, or to demonstrate their knowledge in a particular STEM field.
“Some of the events involve the construction of devices, like a wooden plane propelled by a rubber band or launching a parachute system for keeping a ping-pong ball in the air for as long as possible,” explains Dr. Daniel Albert, an associate professor of chemistry at the University who is helping to coordinate this event.
“Other events ask students to showcase their laboratory skills in forensics, knowledge of rocks and minerals, knowledge of genetics, or analytical code-breaking skills. All areas of STEM are represented,” he continues.
The tournament will consist of 15 schools competing in the middle school division and 24 schools competing in the high school division. From there, the top nine middle school division teams and the top seven high school teams will move on to compete at the State Tournament on April 30 in Altoona.
“The Science Olympiad allows students competing to grow in areas that are interesting to them,” says Albert. “It provides a challenge for those students to become excellent in their passion areas, work and train as a member of a team, and showcase their talents.”
“Additionally, it offers all the benefits that often get attributed only to athletics. Students see the payoff of hard work, learn to work with other people towards a common goal, and are challenged to be the best they can be,” he adds.
The tournament will take place Saturday, March 26 from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. The competing teams will be located in McComsey, Roddy and Caputo Halls, and Pucillo Gymnasium.
“The event involves a large amount of coordination and volunteer time,” Albert says. Dr. Laura Ramos-Sepulveda, assistant professor of biology at the university has been instrumental in recruiting and coordinating volunteers. Around 100 Millersville students, faculty and staff work together to help make this event possible.
“We also appreciate all of the hard work that the coaches and students from the individual teams put into having the day be a fun, competitive, and rewarding celebration of STEM,” he concludes.