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South Valley Journal

Two local schools excel in Science Olympiad competition

May 30, 2022 04:55PM ● By Jet Burnham

By Jet Burnham | [email protected]

Science Olympiad is a program designed to spark interest in STEM. Students apply their science knowledge in a competitive environment.

Riverton High School and Oquirrh Hills Middle School are currently the only two schools in Jordan District who participate in the program, which holds competitions a few times each year.

“You don't need to have perfect A's in science to do well in Sci Oly,” RHS team coach Tamra Rossiter said. “A passion to learn in a few certain science areas or being willing to dive into a science project such as building a bridge or car, or studying to identify types of fossils, or how to analyze evidence at a crime scene makes for a successful member.”

Students who participate enjoy the challenge and the opportunity to meet new people.

“It is so fun to be able to go compete with other people who also have a passion for science,” said RHS team vice president Maleina Luker. “Everyone is so supportive of each other and we have a fun environment.”

RHS team president Daniel Yan has participated in Science Olympiad for the past six years.

“Science Olympiad has changed my life for the better,” he said. “I've met some of my best friends through there, and many events that I've competed in really help in the long run skill-wise. It's also just a great hobby and a great opportunity for social time.”

This year, RHS’s team, which is in a building phase and so only had eight members, finished tenth in their division. Rossiter was impressed with the students’ hard work and the time they dedicated to preparing for their events.

OHMS’s team took second place in region and third at state competition, the highest finish they’ve ever had.

“Placing so highly at both state and region is not something we had done consistently in the past, so we have been delighted with the results this year,” OHMS Principal Donna Hunter said. “The students this year have been so excited and so dedicated—just like their adviser. Ms. Byerline's enthusiasm for all things science is so contagious. It has been very exciting to see their growth.”

Team member Audree Moncur credits hard work for this year’s placement.

“I think a big reason why we were so successful is that everyone on the team is really dedicated to trying to do their best on their individual events,” Audree[1]  said.

Audree joined the team halfway through the year and inherited someone else’s project.

“I was granted a giant binder and the task of learning the names and everything about like 50 birds, and it means a lot of information,” Audree said. “And I thought there was no way I'm going to care about this or do more than just what I absolutely had to. But it turns out, it was really fun.”

Now Audree can identify birds in the neighborhood and is excited to share that knowledge with others.

Cameron Cunningham found that the extra work and extra hours required to prepare for the competitions were more fun because the team got along with each other so well.

There are three types of events at Science Olympiad competitions: skills events, test events and lab events.

Jesse Martin and Lincoln Judd took first place in the skills event called Ping Pong Parachute. They built a rocket to launch a ping pong ball which was outfitted with a parachute they’d designed. The goal was to keep the ball aloft the longest. They spent months designing and testing their winning parachute design.

For some events, there was no chance to prepare. In the Write It, Do It event, Alex Turley examined a sculpture and then had to write detailed instructions for his teammate, Lilly McAffee, to follow to recreate the sculpture without having seen it.

In one of the test events, Lilly McAffee and Brendan Tillman took a test about rocks and minerals. While preparing for the event, Brendan said he learned more about study skills that work best for him.

Team members had to be flexible when some of the events changed for the state competition. Cami Knorpp stepped in at the last minute to build an electric airplane for the Electric Wright Stuff event.

“She stepped up to the plate and built a great plane and it was just exciting to see that,” Byerline said. “Even though her event had been taken away from her, she improvised and found something new that she could do and really did a great job.”

Byerline teaches a dedicated TA class for students to prepare for the various competitive events. Science teachers Shannon Greer, Katelyn Heiler and Kristy Griffith, along with parent volunteers, help at competitions.

RHS’s team is run by student leadership as an afterschool activity.


RHS team medals at state:

First Place Cell Biology: Maleina Luker, Daniel Yan

First Place Cyber Security: Maleina Luker, Ethan Donahey

Second Place Experimental Design: Maleina Luker, Ashley Spencer, Ethan Donahey

Third Place Green Generation: Ashley Spencer, Ethan Donahey

Third Place Ping Pong Parachute:  Ashley Spencer, Nadia Luker

Third Place Agricultural Science: Nadia Luker, Anders Hawkins

Third Place Solar Power: Alex Mellor, Anders Hawkins


OHMS team medals at state:

First Place Experimental Design: Lilly McAffee, Tanner Moore, Alex Turley

First Place Ping Pong Parachute: Jesse Martin and Lincoln Judd

First Place Write It, Do It: Alex Turley and Lilly McAffee

Second Place Rocks and Minerals: Lilly McAffee and Brendan Tillman

Third Place Dynamic Planet: Sterling Johnson and Josh Murphy

Third Place Electric Wright Stuff: Cami Knorpp and Cameron Cunningham

Third Place Storm the Castle: Jesse Martin and Lincoln Judd