Science Olympiad, It’s Science and a Whole Lot More

Debra Finger
In Shipley’s Middle School, the competitions are only part of what makes the Science Olympiad experience such an amazing one. This year, Shipley’s Middle School Science Olympiad team finished 11th out of 36 middle school teams that participated in the recent States competition. Though it may not have been as good as the outcome the team wanted, the Olympians and coaches came away from the experience with much more than a trophy or gold medal.

For Lilla, who participated in five events at States, two of which were Anatomy and Physiology with Lucas, and Storm the Castle with Lily, the best parts of being on the Science Olympiad team are the friendships she has made and strong bonds she has formed with her teammates. The long bus trips, staying overnight at competitions, and, of course, the time planning and building, modifying and rebuilding all year in the MakerSpace affords students with similar interests a lot of time together. It’s not surprising that the team is a tightly knit one.

Henry T., captain of the Science Olympiad concurs. He loves being part of the group, especially the teamwork involved in helping each other succeed. He has made a lot of friends with kids he did not know well prior to being a member of the Olympiad. This year, Henry was captain, which allowed him to not only participate in several events including the Road Scholar, an event centered around reading and understanding USGS maps, but also to practice his leadership skills.

Coaches John Harris, Sarah Stehman, and Sean Legnini share the same sentiment and enthusiasm as the Olympiads. Coach Legnini told the students: "Where you ranked yesterday and where we finished, to me, doesn’t matter. Instead, what you all deserve immense credit for is for showing up, diving into really difficult events (some of the hardest ever in my opinion), competing, adjusting, and learning. I say this all the time, there is nothing more challenging at the Shipley Middle School than Science Olympiad, and you all took that challenge, and ran us to our second-straight appearance at the Pennsylvania State Tournament."

The students agree that the team would not have done as well without the support, effort, time, and commitment of the three coaches who taught them perseverance and working together through challenges.

Lilla and Lily can attest to working through a challenge. For their Storm the Castle event, one of the most difficult, the duo had to build a trebuchet (a specific type of catapult that uses a counterweight to create force to fling an object*; a medieval machine used in warfare) and launch an object from a specified location into a bucket. The two had spent so much time during the year working with their trebuchet and practicing with the known weights for the competition (ranging from 1.5kg to 3.0kg), that by competition season, they knew their machine and how it would perform. When given a weight, the two knew exactly what adjustments to make to the angle of the arm, how far the ball would go, and what trajectory the ball would take in order to reach a specific distance.

This information came in handy at States, when they had to completely improvise their trebuchet’s design because it was not within the rules (though it had been for previous competitions). Because Lilla and Lilly knew their device inside and out, they were able to modify their machine and still reach the bucket, both landing the object in and hitting it. Points for this event come from the combination of how far you can throw the ball, given the weight, and how accurately you can hit the bucket. Talk about Courage for the Deed; Grace for the Doing!

Read more about the Middle and Upper School's Science Olympiad performances at States.

The Shipley School is a private, coeducational day school for pre-kindergarten through 12th grade students, located in Bryn Mawr, PA. Through our commitment to educational excellence, we develop within each student a love of learning and a desire for compassionate participation in the world.