Passing torch to budding scientists
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Ever built your own aquifer? Or launched a bottle rocket or homemade helicopter? An estimated 270 middle school and high school students from across Iowa will converge Saturday, March 24, at Coe College in Cedar Rapids to tackle those challenges and prove their scientific prowess.
The Science Olympiad state tournament is like an “academic track meet,” according to organizers. It’s a chance for budding scientists to compete in hands-on solo and group activities to earn a spot at the national competition.
Leslie Flynn has been involved with Science Olympiad for 18 years at the state and national levels. This year, the clinical instructor of science education in the University of Iowa College of Education is a state co-director; she is getting more Hawkeyes involved in the tournament. This is the first year the UI is sharing responsibility for the event with Coe College.
“My goal is to substantially increase Iowa’s participation in this premier national science competition,” she says. “Science Olympiad is a high-impact, low-cost means to engage a large number of students in science technology engineering and mathematics (STEM) study.”
Flynn has assembled 17 UI faculty and students to serve as coaches, mentors, and state event supervisors. Student volunteers in the College of Education have logged more than 50 hours preparing for the tournament by developing events, mentoring teams, and creating training manuals. When these future educators graduate, they will be a new cohort of state coaches.
Some of the goals of Science Olympiad include improve the quality of K-12 STEM education and providing an avenue for K-12 students to explore and excel in STEM.
Flynn said one unique aspect of the program is that teams are usually majority female.
“This is a group traditionally underrepresented in STEM fields,” Flynn says.
State tournament events will be held at various locations on the Coe College campus:
- Bottle Rocket events will be at 8:30 and 9:30 a.m. in the Quad.
- Helicopters will be at 8:30 and 9:30 a.m. at the Eby Fieldhouse.
- The Awesome Aquifer event will be at 1:30 p.m. in 207 Peterson Hall of Science.
- The day will culminate with an awards ceremony at 4:30 p.m. at the Eby Fieldhouse.
The national competition will be in Orlando in May.
Editor's Note: Reporters, photographers, and videographers are especially invited to cover this event.