Bay Area Science Olympiad

The world’s next Einstein could very well be on campus when Foothill hosts the fifth annual Bay Area Science Olympiad on Saturday, Feb. 9.


The regional competition draws more than 1,500 Bay Area middle and high school students to compete in biology, chemistry and physics. Students work in two-person teams to compete in 23 events at the all-day gathering.


“What I like about the events is that they’re team competition events,” Craig Kelso, teacher and event coordinator, said. “They have to make sure that during the school year, their teams are learning and preparing for the events. It takes a lot of coordination and leadership.”


While many competitions focus on one particular science, the Olympiad takes a broader approach.


“It’s a unique experience that encompasses all the sciences,” he said. “It’s not just focused on one thing. This is a very important competition. The kids get a lot out of it. Come to the awards ceremony and look at the faces of the kids. It’s worth it.”


Kelso worked with Mike McKee, a high-ranking volunteer with the national Science Olympiad, to establish the Bay Area competition. McKee, who now lives in Florida, continues to organize the Bay Area competition with help from Kelso.


“I do all the coordination for setting up the Foothill site for the day and make sure materials are where they need to be,” Kelso said. “My job is to make sure everything runs smoothly.”


The Olympiad is truly driven by volunteers. The leader of each team that competes, typically a teacher, is responsible for coordinating one event. Roughly 300 teachers and parents help run events and support their teams throughout the day.


Students on each team decide which two team members will compete in which events. Some events, like lab experiments or exams, last just one hour. Other events, like building a robotic arm or elastic-launched glider, take all day.


Senior Jason Liu enjoys the Olympiad because it challenges students far beyond what they learn in class. This will be his third year to compete.


“There are a lot more hands-on events, so you get to learn a lot more than you normally would,” Jason said. “You learn a lot more advanced topics.”


Liu, Olympiad club president and team captain, enjoys the team aspect of the competition.


“You can learn a lot more about how to work together,” he said. “It opens my eyes more to teamwork. You always learn something new.”


The Science Olympiad will draw more than 1,500 students from 42 Bay Area schools, mostly from the Peninsula and South Bay. Pleasanton will have teams from Foothill, Amador Valley, Hart and Harvest Park.


Students who win at the regional event will advance to the state competition with dreams of going to nationals.


“It gives academic kids a vehicle to compete that they wouldn’t have in any other environment,” Kelso said. “Individual science competitions are fine, but that only benefits the student in that competition. In the Science Olympiad, they learn how to cooperate and work with each other. They work toward a common goal.”


The Bay Area Science Olympiad will be held at Foothill on Saturday, Feb. 9 from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Four events – robot arm, elastic-launched glider, boom lever and magnetic levitation racetrack – are open to the public. The awards ceremony at the end of the day, usually around 4:30 p.m., is also open to the public.

By Zoe Francis

Posted Monday, Jan. 28, 2013