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Martin Luther King Magnet School student Gainer Phay, works on Mission Possible, at Science Olympiad.
Martin Luther King Magnet School student Gainer Phay works on Mission Possible at Science Olympiad.
(Photo: Courtesy Aaron Broder)

Science Olympiad
By Aaron Broder
Scholastic Kids Press Corps

April 3, 2006—Bridge? Check. PVC Flute? Check. Bottle rocket? Check. No, it's not a scene from Mission Impossible III. It is a checklist of the things my team needed to compete at Science Olympiad this weekend in Knoxville, Tennessee.

The Science Olympiad is a nonprofit organization that promotes student interest in science. The Olympiad sponsors an annual competition, for which students prepare months in advance, hoping to prove that they are top-of-the-line in science. With 23 events, including Bridge Building, Experimental Design, and Food Science, this nationwide competition spans virtually all major areas of science.

This year, my team from Martin Luther King Magnet School in Nashville, Tennessee, competed against 38 other middle-school teams from across the state.

After winning first place in regional competition, we were invited to compete at the state level. On March 31, checklist in order, we headed to the University of Tennessee in Knoxville.

"I think the Science Olympiad is a fun and interesting way to learn about science," said David Gilmore, a seventh-grader on my team who competed in the Balloon Race. In this competition, students race to determine a weight for a helium-inflated balloon that will allow it to rise and hit a predefined height as slowly as possible. Together, he and eighth-grader Jenny Hong won gold for their amazing performance.

Not all events mean building projects in real time. For many of them, teams must prepare months in advance. For example, for Mission Possible, teams must build a Rube Goldberg device that accomplishes a certain goal. (A Rube Goldberg device performs a task in an indirect manner, like a chain reaction, using an array of simple machines. Think the "Mouse Trap" game.) This year, the goal of the machine was to unroll three squares of toilet paper.

At the end of the day, after competition in a number of events, it was time to award the state champion. Traveling to the nationals next month to compete against 60 teams from all over the country will be Bearden Middle School of Knoxville, Tennessee.

"The whole team is very excited," said Sara Mueller, one of the coaches for the winning team. "It was hard to get them motivated at first, but as it got closer to the competition, they started working harder." Bearden Middle School isn't new to winning. This is its 17th time placing 1st in the state competition.

And so, come May 17th, top students from Bearden Middle School will find themselves at Indiana University, competing for nationwide recognition.


Science Olympiad
Are you interested in joining Science Olympiad? Check out the official Web site for rules and information.

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