Etched in Stone

Science Olympiad scoops up three medals at Nationals

James+Zheng+is+ecstatic+after+the+teams+first+win+of+the+night.+Photo+Credit%3A+David+Andel
James Zheng is ecstatic after the teams first win of the night. Photo Credit: David Andel

James Zheng is ecstatic after the teams first win of the night. Photo Credit: David Andel

James Zheng is ecstatic after the teams first win of the night. Photo Credit: David Andel

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Before the award show began, spotlights danced around Moby Arena and music hyped up the crowds. Photo Credit: Karen Manley

On Friday, May 18 and Saturday, May 19, fifteen Science Olympiad competitors from Fossil Ridge High School, as well as four alternates, headed to Colorado State University (CSU) for the National Science Olympiad competition. Three teams of two from Fossil brought home medals, including Trevor Long and Kyle Schmer, who took first place in Mousetrap Vehicle, Chelsea Wang and Karina Tertel, who took third place in Write It Do It, and Gracie Finnegan and Catherine Zhang, who took sixth place in Rocks and Minerals. Additionally, Fossil ended in 21st place among the 59 other teams.

This year’s competition featured a total of 2,057 students from across the United States, as well as a team from Japan. It was hosted in Colorado for the fourth time in history and was a first for Fort Collins. Speakers at the closing ceremony included former mayor of the city, Ray Martinez, who announced the middle school medalers, and Steve Lovaas, the tournament director, who sang the national anthem and cracked jokes that kept the whole arena in stitches.

Science Olympiad competitions consist of 23 events, which rotate to some degree year-by-year. This includes four building events and nineteen testing and lab events that can span from Anatomy and Physiology to Aviation. A national governing body for the organization determines which events will be available each year and each participating school must field a team of no more than fifteen people with no more than seven seniors. Maddy Chong, a junior and alternate on this year’s Nationals team, explained that a team of two can get a medal in their event, which is a big honor. However, the team must all succeed as one to be able to move on to the next level of competition. In addition, each team must compete in every event, so Science Olympiad coach Mrs. Vigil explained that sometimes students have to make sacrifices in which event they compete in for the good of the team.

Vigil described Fossil’s Nationals strategy and goals as such: “we want to represent Fossil with integrity, we want to have fun, and we’re hoping to get a bunch of medals and maybe even a trophy.” Though Fossil did not win a trophy at this competition, they certainly succeeded in their other two goals.

Their integrity shone through in several moments particularly, including during the Mousetrap Vehicle event. In it, the team has to build a vehicle that is powered entirely by a mousetrap, which then must push a red solo cup across a given line and then zoom back in the other direction to reach another line. Points are rewarded for the speed and accuracy of the vehicle, and Long and Schmer’s vehicle landed nearly perfectly on the line. The crowd immediately erupted into cheers, but several other teams immediately expressed discontent with Fossil’s mousetrap, which they didn’t think looked allowable. However, the two boys remained calm while the judges explained to the other coaches that they had researched the mousetrap and that it was commercially available and therefore legal and were rewarded for their hours of work with a first place medal.

Fossil’s signs caused the whole auditorium to go wild, referencing the newest social media debate over something silly.

Each Science Olympiad opening ceremony is fun-filled and includes plenty of crazy costumes and state pride, and this year’s was no different. Because Fossil was the “home team”, they got to walk in last, in a similar way to the Olympic opening ceremonies. The Fossil coaches spent hours brainstorming how to make their hats stand out this year, and they finally settled on crafting ones that looked like mountains and then affixing LED lights to them. The part that made the crowd go crazy, though, were the signs that Kyle Kirkby and Annalea Zhao hid behind them as they walked in and then held up when they reached center stage, which read “Laurel” and “Yanny”. This was a nod to a recording that surfaced about a week ago, in which a computerized voice reads an unintelligible word that people have interpreted differently and been debating since.

The closing ceremony, meanwhile, was a formal-dress occasion. Despite that, and the air of nervousness at Moby Arena, the whole effect was more like a back-to-school assembly at Fossil than a stressful competition. Students waved phone flashlights back and forth across the arena at one another and clapped along to the latest pop songs while they waited for the final ceremony to begin.

Fossil sat front row, in chairs just thirty feet in front of the stage, as home team. Fort Collins’ middle school team, Preston Middle School, was just across the aisle, and the two schools supported one another throughout the competition and even shared a “home base” room in between events. For each event, the top six middle school teams and then the top six high school teams were announced, and the cameras panned to show the young scientists’ excitement as they bounded to the stage. Because the event was held at Moby Arena on CSU campus, the speaker system was excellent and a livestream was broadcast to all the TVs, so there was no struggle at all to understand what was going on.

Aside from the competition events, held on Saturday, the weekend featured science-related classes on Friday. Vigil taught a Harry Potter-themed “Potions and Poisons” course, in which she dressed up as Snape and crafted some crazy concoctions. Potions and Poisons is one of the middle school events and Vigil wanted to make the topic both fun and informative the day before they competed. She added that she felt like, “the Mrs. Frizzle of these kids”, in reference to the kooky science teacher on Magic School Bus.

Next year’s national competition will be at Cornell University in Ithaca, New York, and teams across the United States are already anticipating it. A teaser video was shown as the closing ceremonies wound down, featuring Bill Nye the Science Guy as the host and causing the entire stadium to erupt into cheers and chants of “Bill Nye”. Fossil looks into the future with plenty of hope, but make sure to congratulate your fellow Sabercats on their successes at this year’s national competition.

About the Writer
Isabella Mahal, Head Copywriter

Despite all the warnings given to her, senior Isabella Mahal filled her schedule with AP classes and a single TA period. Many of these classes were only open to seniors and fascinate her, such as AP Literature and AP World History, so not having an off period doesn’t bother her. It isn’t just her school schedule that is full. Mahal fills her time with extracurricular activities like volunteering at the Humane Society, being the co-president of Fossil Ridge’s Spectrum, and being a member of the group Never Again NoCo that works to help end gun violence at schools.

If Mahal has some time to relax, she is spending it with her family and pets. Her younger brother, Sebastian, is a sophomore at Fossil, and they get McDonalds together in her free time. Her family dog, Gus, and her cat, Silverstein, help her wind down after a long day at school. Mahal loves hiking, biking, and hanging out in her hometown of Fort Collins. Although her music taste varies, she loves Counting Crows, The Front Bottoms, Duran Duran, and Modern Baseball.

Mahal never dreamt about spending all four years of high school in journalism, having joined the class to be with her best friend, Karen Manley. Due to their differing schedules, Mahal ended up alone in the class, which forced her to find her own place. She wrote academic and opinion pieces, adding movie and book reviews to her portfolio. After being the academic beat leader her sophomore and junior year, Mahal is now the head copy editor to round out her time in the class. Her dream school would be UC Berkeley, studying public or global health to one day possibly join the Peace Corps. Although Mahal isn’t pursuing journalism in the future, the class has become a window for her to find herself, and help others do the same. It’s taught her about the students in the school whose voices aren’t always heard.

Mahal’s advice for incoming Journalism I students is to not be afraid to walk into an event or sport and be unsure about it, and to meet and talk with new people. People in clubs or sports that are less recognized are always appreciative of the recognition of their hard work. Even if you’re unsure about what you’re going to, you will definitely leave knowing more than before, and it’ll make you a more caring person to understand how everyone’s different experiences shape who they are. She loves the forum that journalism lends for people to understand the world around them, and she is a self-proclaimed “first amendment enthusiast”.

1 Comment

One Response to “Science Olympiad scoops up three medals at Nationals”

  1. Mrs Vigil on May 21st, 2018 6:25 am

    Thanks ladies for covering this event! We had a blast representing our hometown and are so proud of our team’s performance!

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Science Olympiad scoops up three medals at Nationals