Clancy Middle School student Ryan Olsen studies his competitors' bridges while awaiting his turn in the elevated bridge event Tuesday at the Montana Science Olympiad at Montana State University. MSU photo by Kelly Gorham.
by Melynda Harrison, MSU News Service
and Jan Anderson, editor
Airplanes made of wood and mylar glided through the air in Montana State University’s Brick Breeden Fieldhouse the Tuesday before Thanksgiving. Tennis balls, hacky sacks and ping pong balls were launched toward targets from catapults, trebuchets and ballistas. Middle and high school students, along with teachers, coaches and parents, discussed technique and cheered after each launch.
Roughly 900 students from more than 30 junior high and high schools around the state, including students from Clancy School, competed in this year’s Montana Science Olympiad at MSU. A variety of contests that included building bridges and model airplanes, solving
crimes, identifying fossils and interpreting maps determined which teams earned a chance to compete at the national tournament held in Augusta, Georgia, in May.
Clancy’s team, coached by Ted Polette and Daryl Mikesell, took top honors in the junior high/middle school category for small schools, amassing 173 points.
Two Clancy seventh graders, Nick Burkland and Abbie Caldwell, earned top honors to be the state champions in the Road Scholar event. It is the first time since 2004 that the school has captured an individual state title in Science Olympiad.
Team members were eighth graders Desiré McDougall, Rebecca Wacker, Ryan Olsen and Kayla Anderson, seventh graders Stephen Murphy, Austin Lindsay, Abbie Caldwell, Nick Burkland and Rebecca Mixan, and sixth graders Janessa Williams, Ryan Seyler, Ana McDougall, Kirsten Marble, Jonah Elston, Serena McDaniels and Darcie Caldwell.
The Science Olympiad was hosted by MSU’s Math Science Resource Center. About
120 students, staff and faculty from departments across MSU helped put on the tournament, acting as scorers and judges for the Olympiad’s 15 events, which were held in five buildings on campus.
“The Olympiad was originally designed to promote science education and recognize outstanding junior high and high school science students; but it also provides students with the opportunity to travel and compete on a team that’s not necessarily related to sports,” said Olympiad state coordinator Lisa Daly, who also works at MSU’s Math Science Resource Center.
Caleb Matthew, a senior at Noxon High School, participated in the Science Olympiad for the fourth year, but it was his first year in the trajectory contest. He built a Greek ballista, a slingshot-like device that propelled a tennis ball toward a target.
“Building the project was the most fun,” Matthew said. “I also like being on campus, hanging out with friends and missing school.”
John Onofrey, a seventh grader at Noxon, participated in the elevated bridget contest. The task was to design and build the lightest bridge that met size specifications and could hold 15 kg (33 pounds) of weight.
Onofrey spent two weeks drafting and building the prototype of his bridge, which was able to hold the full weight.
“I learned that the design was fine, but that I needed to make it lighter. So, I cut off some unnecessary parts,” Onofrey explained.
Elisabeth Swanson, director of the Science Math Resource Center, said MSU hopes the Olympiad will connect Montana math and science-minded junior high and high school students with like-minded faculty, undergraduates and graduate students. Swanson also said the Olympiad helps the visiting students learn more about the study and research opportunities available at MSU.
Perhaps most importantly, the Olympiad publicly recognizes students who are good at math and science, she said. “It lets students, especially girls, know that being smart in math and science is nothing to hide. It’s something to be proud of,” Swanson said.
Clancy students experiment their way to success
Thursday, December 4, 2008
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