Students with a knack for science, engineering and competition are able to showcase their talents in a variety of team and individual events as part of the Texas Science Olympiad.
By Shana Hutchins, Texas A&M University College of Science
Nearly 1,000 Texas middle and high school students are putting their science and engineering knowledge to the test this weekend in Aggieland as they battle for Lone Star State bragging rights in the 2017 Texas Science Olympiad (TSO), scheduled for April 21-22 at Texas A&M University.
For the 16th consecutive year, Texas A&M is playing host to the blockbuster finale that features 60 teams from across the state — 30 each per middle and high school division — in the ultimate battle of science- and engineering-related academic and at times even athletic wits.
Friday’s events, which are free and open to the public, will run from 9:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. and be held at the Brazos Center in Bryan. Saturday’s competitions, set for 8 a.m. to 2:50 p.m., are restricted to participants only and will take place on the Texas A&M campus. All events will conclude with a Saturday evening awards ceremony (6 p.m. for Division B, 7 p.m. for Division C) at Texas A&M’s Rudder Theater Complex.
The rigorous academic contest, which is part of a broader national competition that aims to improve the quality of science education in schools, covers a variety of topics spanning the gamut of science, engineering and technology. Individually and collectively, each challenge is designed to test students’ knowledge of a given subject through their combined use of problem-solving skills and teamwork.
Each competing school is permitted one team of 15 students who will compete in Division B (grades 6-9) or Division C (grades 9-12). During the course of the two-day competition, students will display their skills in a variety of ways, such as constructing airplanes, gliders and weight-bearing bridges, assembling electric-powered vehicles and building gravity-driven vehicles that move a car along a roller coaster track.
“Science Olympiad is an incredible tool for teaching science and engineering,” said Dr. Nancy Magnussen, director of the Texas A&M College of Science Educational Outreach and Women’s Programs Office and state director for the Texas Science Olympiad. “It’s a great opportunity for these students to not only showcase their knowledge of science in a fun, competitive environment, but also to work together as a team toward a common goal.
“Across Texas, this is a huge event that so many students look forward to each year. But what we, as well as the students and their teachers, love about it is that it allows participation by all types of students — those who are academically gifted as well as those who are master builders and craftsmen. They all get the chance to show off their knowledge and skills, because the emphasis is placed on active, hands-on group participation.”
In addition to local coordinators from across the Brazos Valley, nearly 200 Texas A&M and Blinn College faculty, staff and students are on hand to set up and judge the competition’s 56 events, which feature 23 national as well as five Texas events per division. As in previous years, organizers and judges from NASA as well as business and industrial representatives from both the Houston and Austin communities also are volunteering their services and expertise.
First-through-fourth-place winners will be decided for each contest and subsequently recognized as part of Saturday’s official awards ceremony in Rudder. The two schools from each division with the lowest scores will advance to the Science Olympiad National Tournament, to be held May 19-20 at the Wright State University.
The Science Olympiad is a non-profit organization dedicated to improving the quality of K-12 science education, increasing student interest in science, and recognizing outstanding achievements in science education by both students and teachers. Michigan State University hosted the first annual Science Olympiad National Tournament in May 1985, with 17 states participating. Currently, 7,600 teams across all 50 states are involved, with an additional 10,000 or more elementary schools holding Science Olympiad tournaments or hands-on events.
For more information on this year’s Texas Science Olympiad, including event schedules for both divisions, click here.
To learn more about the Science Olympiad organization, visit http://soinc.org/.
Contact: Shana K. Hutchins, (979) 862-1237 or firstname.lastname@example.org or Dr. Nancy Magnussen, (979) 845-5587 or email@example.com