05:03 PM

South Texas College hosts 12th annual Rio Grande Valley Regional Science Olympiad

More than 300 students arrived at South Texas College (STC) to test their skills in a daylong regional science competition.

STC hosted the 12th annual Rio Grande Valley Regional Science Olympiad on Feb. 24. Competing in everything from tower building to creating their own makeshift helicopters, the event offered a day of fun as well as a hands-on learning experience for all students.

“Before we started this, the closest regional was in San Antonio so teams from the Valley would have to travel all the way over there,” said Dr. Ludivina Avila, instructor in the Division of Math and Science, and director of the annual event. “Now they have the opportunity to compete here locally to try to make it to state.”

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.

The Olympiad consists of interscholastic competitions for students in grades 6th-12th centered around events in Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM). Events are mostly hands-on, and range from hovercraft racing, to robot testing. Some events like forensics involve a fictionalized crime scene where students try different experiments in order to solve the case.

“They build towers and bridges or rollercoasters and they test them out here,” Dr. Avila said. “They do forensics or chemistry lab experiments and the kids seem to have a lot of fun doing it.”

Participating schools came from San Antonio, the Houston area, Corpus Christi and from across the Rio Grande Valley. The Olympiad was comprised of 15 separate events per division. Division B included middle school students and two elementary teams, and Division C included high school competitors. Medals were awarded to the top three students in each event, with the top two teams overall in each division advancing to the state competition at Texas A&M College Station in April.

“These kids started out with us as sixth graders. They just love science and they have fun with it. It’s a no risk environment where the kids can come, have fun and learn a little science in the process,” said Mike Snell, a San Juan native who now works as a counselor at Alamo Heights Independent School District in San Antonio. “We started this nine years ago. It has grown into its own little unique family now. This teaches kids how to work as a team and to take risks in a risk-free environment so it’s a great thing.”