Science Olympiad a learning by doing opportunity at VU

2014-01-11T19:50:00Z 2014-01-11T22:30:23Z Science Olympiad a learning by doing opportunity at VUSusan O'Leary Times Correspondent
January 11, 2014 7:50 pm  • 

VALPARAISO | Nearly 500 students participated in 23 events for medals and trophies Saturday in the Valparaiso University Science Olympiad.

Students from 11 high schools, including Valparaiso, Crown Point and George Rogers Clark, and 13 middle schools, including Ben Franklin, Hebron, and Chesterton, vied in the invitational event, while competitions focused on engineering, machines, robotics, rocks and minerals, the solar system, water quality, meteorology, entomology and anatomy.

“An invitational is a practice run,” said Ben Averill, a senior chemistry major who started the first VU Olympiad last year. “This is the lowest level of competition — next are regional competitions.”

Averill said each competition is judged by a “supervisor,” who, in an invitational, takes time to provide feedback to the competing students after their event.

“The supervisors can talk to the kids and tell them what they did wrong,” said Ben Averill. “It’s a learning experience.”

Both Averill and committee member Nathan Kelly, a junior in meteorology, were former science Olympiad participants in middle school and high school.

“I’m excited for the opportunity to be on the other side of it,” said Kelly. “It feels good to give back to a program that gave me so many opportunities to explore my interest in science.”

Valparaiso High students Katherine Dolan and Brian Karr entered their hand-built, crane-like contraption in the Boomilever competition to see how much weight it would support before it broke.

“This is like an introduction to civil engineering,” said Averill. “It shows them how to build things and improve on the design.”

Contest supervisor Steve Slaven, from Winamac High, was disappointed the device broke after holding only 5.5 kilograms of sand.

“It was beautiful,” said Slaven, of the students’ design, after giving the students his feedback. “I would never have thought of doing it that way. I can’t help them — they’re way ahead of me.”

Dolan said she felt the Olympiad was very “beneficial.”

“It shows us where we are as a team and how we can improve for the future,” said Dolan, a sophomore at Valparaiso High.

Slaven said the Olympiad is a “teaching day” and an opportunity to see creative minds at work.

“It’s cool that there are so many avenues to a right answer,” said Slaven. That’s what makes this fun.”

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