When it comes to science, these kids know their stuff.
Students from Lehighton High School competed in the Northeast Regional Science Olympiad on Wednesday. They came home with eight medals and the rights to move onto the state competition.
Science Olympiad is one of the largest national science competitions in the United States, offering students a challenging environment in which to test their skills and knowledge. More than 5,700 teams take part each year in 48 states. Each team must first work advance through regional and state contests before being eligible for the national competition.
At regionals this week, held at Penn State Wilkes-Barre campus, Lehighton students were up against 31 other high school teams trying to prove their knowledge is all areas of science. The Lehighton team ranked fifth out of these 31 teams, making them eligible for the state competition at Juniata College on April 30.
"We have a great group this year. The kids worked really hard," said Douglas Bowman, a physics teacher at Lehighton Area High School and the leader of the Lehighton Science Olympiads team. "They spent hours here, building things and studying for tests. They are the best kids to work with."
Team members began preparing for the event back in October and began actively building projects in December. Science Olympiad challenges can be project-based or a written exam or lab experiment.
"It's a great experience, because most of us are going into scientific fields," said Alexis Gerber, a senior on the team. "Just taking the classes in school is good preparation."
Many of the students on the Science Olympiad team plan to go to college to study some form of science, from biology or chemistry to engineering or astronomy. They faced challenges at the regional level relating to their chosen field. Many faced realistic challenges such as building a model bridge or testing the energy efficiency of model windmills. The challenges allow students to test their muscle on real-world problems far beyond those that they can face in a high school classroom.
Now that Lehighton students have proven their skills at the regional competition, they will face similar challenges at the state level. The students expect the competition to be tougher - the tests may be harder, and they'll be up against the top teams in the state.
"We studied a lot, and we put in a lot of hours," said Jordyn Miller, one of three Lehighton students to take first place in the regional competition. She applied her experience from past competitions to this year's event, learning from last year's triumphs and mistakes. "It was worth it," she said of the time involved.
Miller won first place with her balsa wood elevated bridge, which was judged based on its efficiency - the weight that the bridge could hold compared to the weight of the bridge itself. Also winning first place were Ryan Fatzinger and Tim Sulzer, who placed first in the ornithology competition. Ornithology is the study of birds.
Second place winters included Ryan Fatzinger and Tim Sulzer, Ecology; Ryan Fatzinger and Zach Shiner, Mousetrap Vehicle; and Ryan Fatzinger and Tim Sulzer, Trajectory. Third place winners from Lehighton were Alexis Gerber and Nick Mantz, Cell Biology; Nick Mantz and Jayden Hensley, It's About Time; and Ryan Fatzinger, Alexis Gerber, and Zach Shiner, Mission Possible.