Boxes stacked high with lab materials. Students running around, sheafs of paper in one hand and goggles in the other. Teams intensely focusing and aiming for success. This was the scene of the Richard Montgomery Science Olympiad Team at the recent Central Maryland Regional competition.
On February 24th, RM’s three Science Olympiad teams participated in the regional competition at the University of Maryland. Schools from all across Maryland came together to compete and test their knowledge of many different scientific topics, in both hands-on and written test events. RM students were able to showcase their talents, bringing home a fourth place finish.
“Science Olympiad, it’s got this curse, called the fifth place curse. We’ve gotten fifth place every single year since my freshman year, but this year we got fourth place and I’m really excited about that,” Science Olympiad president junior Alan Tong said.
Although Science Olympiad is a team competition, students compete in a variety of events in teams of two of three. There are events from all the different disciplines of science, including Thermodynamics, Mousetrap Vehicle, Microbe Mission, Astronomy, and Experimental Design. With such a large and varied selection of events, each team member can find something they are interested in.
For example, Thermodynamics involves the building of an insulating device that is a specific size to hold heated water. The team members in this event need to be able to predict the temperature the water will be at when a time period of thirty minutes concludes. They also need to construct graphs for this as well as take a written exam at the competition.
“I feel like this is a wonderful experience because I get to learn more science and be competitive at the same time,” freshman Abhinav Karthikeyana explained. Science Olympiad has garnered a lot of positive attention from the students involved and has grown year to year.
Many students put in a lot of effort into their events and their performance made this year’s competition very thrilling and exciting. Collectively, the RM teams places in 18 events, a record in recent years. In doing so, students were able to showcase their skills and the time they put into building and studying for these events.
Science Olympiad is a very team-oriented activity, with many students forming strong bonds through competing together as preparing for the same events allows members to bond. Many students all stay after school together, working on build events, or just studying. “You cannot do Science Olympiad yourself as it is a very collaborative environment and there is no need to be afraid,” junior Siobhan Light said.
Students have also mentioned seeing friends from back in middle school, people that they once competed in the middle school division of Science Olympiad with. These lasting connections have remained constant despite going off to different high schools, a testament to the teamwork building aspect of the competition.
RM plans on going to the Maryland State Competition on April 14th at Johns Hopkins University, taking the top fifteen finishers from regionals. States preparation is already underway, with students reflecting on mistakes, looking ahead for improvements, and increasing their studying. Because this season has been relatively strong for the RM team, they look forward to the states competition and possibly the national competition.
“At states, we really want to boost up our build events and our walk-in events because it seems like those events are the ones that RM is the least strong in, so if we get those up, we have the potential to get second or first place and go to Nationals,” Tong said. These goals are the culmination of past experience and necessary for the team to succeed at states.
Nationals may seem like a high bar to reach, but the team believes that it is possible as long as team members put in the time and energy needed to correct the mishaps from regionals and move forward.
Though this year’s events have not yet concluded, it is time for the club to look to next year and decide what should be improved further. The team is always evolving and looking towards positive change, hoping to place even higher in next year’s competitions.
However, RM’s team is facing some issues in terms of membership in the coming year. “We are leaning towards so many members that are in the upper two grades and that is pretty bad in the long term sense. We would like to engage new freshmen and sophomores,” Light explained.
Other goals for the coming year include starting build events earlier and generally being more prepared. With these new changes and increased membership, the future of Science Olympiad at RM looks promising.
Light explained the merits of taking part in Science Olympiad: “It may sound stuffy at first, but it is really a lot of fun and they people there are so nice. If you don’t like studying, there are also a lot of hands-on parts that you can try as well.”
Last year, the team commemorated their accomplishments at the regional and state competitions by painting a mural located at the end of the science hallway on the third floor. Science Olympiad has made a lasting impact on RM as it helps students to discover new interests in STEM and will continue to grow in the years to come.
Featured photo courtesy of Julie Present.