Science Olympians make nationals

Published 11:43 am Monday, March 30, 2009

Engineering a doll–sized bridge strong enough to withstand the weight of 5 pounds of sand takes ingenuity.

Our Lady of the Valley students took on that task, and dozens of others, to qualify for the national Science Olympiad competition May 14–17 in Augusta, Ga.

“They make the competitions harder every year,” said team co-captain and eighth-grader Sebastian Wygoda. “I’ve been studying for the robotics competitions since sixth-grade.”

Science teacher and sponsor Ann Stevens took 51 students to regional competition. She said dedication like Wygoda’s and his peers’ allowed OLV students to sweep the regional tournament.

“I don’t have to motivate the students to come in here and work,” Stevens said. “The team captains organize and lead the practices. They do all of the research and organize all of the materials.”

Only eighth-grade students actually receive grades for their work. Others participate on an extracurricular basis. Eighth-grade competitor Leah Bostany said they begin practicing a few times during the summer and intensify their efforts as the year progresses.

All of that practice pays off. Captain Meghan Till received two first place medals at state.

She and teammate Jeremy Rupert won the environmental chemistry competition, while she and Bostany solved the crime busters portion. Till also placed in the experimental design and meteorology portions. She plans to cram a good bit before national competition.

“We know it’s going to be hard,” captain Meghan Till said of national competition. “But it’s also really exciting.”

Our Lady of the Valley has finished in the top 40 schools in the nation in the past, and No. 1 among all Catholic schools in the nation. This year the school plans to take as many students as possible.

“Even if a child doesn’t compete in the actual competition, they will still be incredibly involved in the event,” Stevens said.

Science Olympiad festivities are set to include a parade of states, a swap meet, presentations from professors and scientists, and chances to meet students with similar interests.