Bright Students At Science Olympiad
Constructive Contests Are Hosted By Grover Cleveland High School
The 27th annual New York City Regional Science Olympiad held Saturday, Feb. 5 at Ridgewood’s Grover Cleveland High School featured 44 teams of 15 students collaborating on a series of projects and competing for six prizes that would put them in position to vie for statewide recognition.
Event coordinator Thomas Sangiorgi described the competition as a way for students to unite and communicate their ideas on a number of challenging activities in the areas of tower building, magnetic levitation, optics, remote sensing and SumoBot displays just to name a few.
One of the more arduous competitions that involves significant preparation is one where youngsters are asked to pretend that they’re working for the Center of Disease Control (CDC) and come up with solutions to questions that are posed to them.
Sangiorgi, who also serves as a chemistry teacher at Townsend Harris High School in Flushing, described his role of assembling team coaches from a pool of teachers that are entrusted with the responsibility of judging the Olympiad participants.
“It’s inspiring for us teachers because the students are not forced to do this. They do it voluntarily,” shared the event supervisor. “You get an opportunity to focus on areas of science that they normally don’t focus on in a traditional science classroom.”
Fellow instructor Katherine Cooper stressed the importance of teamwork as an essential ingredient for success, along with knowing the rulebook.
“Read the rules. Rely on each other and work together. No man stand alone; no woman stands alone. Don’t think you have to conquer the whole mountain on your own,” said Cooper in reference to the type of advice she typically imparts to the young science enthusiasts.
The fact that the students aren’t given an official grade for their work, she continued, has helped students come in touch with their creative souls.
In recent years, Stuyvesant and Townsend Harris have been among the more successful schools that have consistently won the top medals and gone one to compete in the state finals. But Sangiorgi explained that finishing in the top-10 is a most prestigious honor for any school.
He added: “During the award ceremony, when we announce a particular school has won an award, all the students from that school cheer and they cheer loud and hard…it doesn’t matter if they participated in that event. You see school spirit at its peak during this event---it’s truly a special experience.”
While athletics is typically the way that school spirit is created within a school setting, pointed out Cooper, many educational facilities cannot afford the insurance fees that come with fielding a football, baseball or basketball team. The Olympiad, conversely, is an all-inclusive recreation.
When asked whether students actually make science their careers, Cooper responded: “Some do, some don’t. It depends on the student. You have some students who just love to build and love to learn. Some students kind of get pulled into this by their friends and realize how much they love it. They sometimes become science majors because of that. I have graduates tell me: ‘This is what I remember. I miss it so much. I wish could be back in high school, so I could do this again.’”
Shavon Mulji of Townsend Harris’Astronomy team was one of those who seeks to make a living as a scientist down the road in order to learn about “what’s beyond our knowledge.” Her teammate, Judy Liu, though, wasn’t quite looking that far and just stated her wish of getting her own telescope to identify all the different stars in the sky.
Down in Grover Cleveland’s gymnasium were groups of students working on unique mousetrap contraptions, such as Caitlin Smolen’s team from of St. Francis Prep. that displayed a device which set off five different reactions.
Jason Kim of Townsend Harris was preoccupied with a similar undertaking except that his elaborate masterpiece consisting of electromagnetic forces, vinegar and baking soda wasn’t quite operating the way he planned.
Over in the auditorium were members of the tower building teams that were looking to build the lightest, most efficient bridges that would support the most amount of weight.
Overall, the home team did well for itself as Grover Cleveland won five medals during the competition. Team A came in 23rd out of the 44 competing teams, while the school’s B team secured 30th place.
Dumitru and David Grigorean secured third place for their mousetrap vehicle, while Christine Irizarry and Tenzin Pema won fourth place for their fossils. Steven Torres and Felix Maldonado won fifth place for their mousetrap vehicle, Gloria Yuen and Kelly Rivera took home sixth place in astronomy and Stanimir Karamihaylov and Bevnote Gerges earned sixth place for sumo robots.
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