Science Olympians Converge at 16th annual Regional STEM Competition
McAllen ISD’s Lamar Academy took first place in the high school division at the 16th annual Regional Science Olympiad held at STC’s Pecan Campus Feb. 26. The Olympiad consists of interscholastic competitions for students in grades 6-12 centered around events in Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM). Lamar Academy now moves on to the state competition in College Station April 22.
As young scientists and budding engineers traversed South Texas College’s Pecan campus, many with machines or projects in hand waiting for their next event, chemistry instructor Dr. Ludivina Avila reflected on how far Valley schools have come with STEM.
Amid the hustle and bustle of this year’s 16th Science Olympiad, Avila recalls that the opportunity didn’t always exist for many Valley students and schools. But over the years, something remarkable has happened, she said. Valley students have proved that there is as much passion for Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics as anywhere in the nation, and others are starting to take notice.
“Before we started hosting regional events down here in the Valley, it was very difficult for school districts to do this (now) participating in the Regional Science Olympiad here in the valley is a great opportunity for students to experience a local STEM competition that is unlike their typical UIL competition,” Avila said. “The Science Olympiad has hands-on events where students build some of their projects at home and test them here. They also get the opportunity to be on a college campus and meet different instructors and students in the STEM fields from STC.”
Some of the brightest and most promising young scientific minds met for a fierce competition on South Texas College’s Pecan Campus competing on Saturday, Feb. 26.
Science Olympiad is a nonprofit organization developed over 30 years ago to improve the quality of science education for students. Hosted by the Physical Science Department at South Texas College, the event is a way to provide recognition of outstanding achievement in science education by both students and teachers from all 50 states competing at the regional, state and national level.
“We’re all problem-solvers, that’s what we like about STEM,” said Luke Nyberg, staff engineer and facilitator with the Bell Program at Minnesota State University. The program strives to educate engineering students by combining technical learning and projects with industry partners.”
Nyberg was a keynote speaker at the awards portion of the Science Olympiad Saturday.
“Whether you are in science, engineering or anything else you can’t deny that as human beings we are problem-solvers. From the day we are born we are figuring things out, and what STEM gives us essentially is more tools to be able to be more efficient at problem-solving. I hope you appreciate South Texas College and the resources you have here, the excellent teachers you have here who are genuinely passionate about problem-solving and passing it on.”
“Whether you are in science, engineering or anything else you can’t deny that as human beings we are problem-solvers. From the day we are born we are figuring things out, and what STEM gives us essentially is more tools to be able to be more efficient at problem-solving,” Nyberg told students. “I hope you appreciate South Texas College and the resources you have here, the excellent teachers you have here who are genuinely passionate about problem-solving and passing it on.”
The Olympiad consists of interscholastic competitions for students in grades 6-12 centered around events in Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM).
Avila, Regional Coordinator, manages the RGV portion of the Olympiad, which includes events in Anatomy & Physiology and Rocks and Minerals to hands-on experiments like Trajectory Wright Stuff where students build and fly homemade aircraft or the “Bridge Event” which tested team’s ability to build a structurally efficient but strong bridge.
Events are mostly hands-on and ranged from mouse trap vehicles, to building a hydrometer for the food science event. Some events like forensics involve a fictionalized crime scene where students try different experiments in order to solve the case.
The RGV Regional is part of the Science Olympiad competition that sends the top teams to the next level of competition, the State Science Olympiad in College Station and continues to the national stage.
McAllen ISD’s Lamar Academy took first place in the high school division and Alamo Heights Junior High from San Antonio earned first place in the middle school division.
The state tournament for the Science Olympiad takes place April 22-23 at Texas A&M College Station. This year, teams will have a chance to advance to Caltech, which will host the 2022 Science Olympiad National Tournament on May 14.
“You have to keep building that tool box of yours, but having a tool is not enough, you have to apply them,” Nyberg said. “I hope you keep pursuing your need for problem-solving in STEM or whatever passion you have.”
For more information about the Science Olympiad, including a list of advancing teams, contact regional director Dr. Avila at 956-872-3511 or through email at firstname.lastname@example.org.