A Deeper Dive Into STEM Learning at Science Olympiad

The NCS campus was abuzz with activity early on Saturday morning, Dec. 8. More than 800 students, parents, and instructors from 37 middle and high schools were racing back and forth between Hearst Hall and Woodley North to compete in events in NCS’s annual Science Olympiad Invitational.

Science Olympiad is a day-long tournament that combines knowledge-based written tests, hands-on events, and constructions designed and built by students. Teams are awarded points for each activity, and these are then tallied up to a total score. The meet provides teams a chance to prove their knowledge and skills in STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) through friendly competition.

Nearly every classroom of Woodley North was occupied with dozens of students conducting experiments, testing mousetrap cars, or writing hastily on sheets of paper. Meanwhile, each hallway was lined with parents waiting in suspense to learn the outcome. Those with a break in their schedules huddled in “home base” classrooms at Hearst Hall, preparing for the next task.

The NCS Science Olympiad program is in its fifth year. At this meet, NCS was represented by 62 students split into three Upper School teams, one team of Middle Schoolers and 9th graders, and a group of alternates. For Hailey Kim ’19 and Mia Millstein ’19, who have competed in Science Olympiad since sophomore year, the tournament is a chance to delve deeper into science.

“You get to try a lot of things in Science Olympiad and get really deep into specific fields, like engineering,” said Kim.

Millstein agreed, saying, “It helps expand our knowledge outside the classroom.”

Others became involved partly because of the enthusiasm and passion displayed by team coach and Middle School math teacher Susan Karpatkin.

“I had Mrs. Karpatkin in Middle School and heard a lot about Science Olympiad in her class. She would talk about the tournaments she’d go to on weekends—it sounded cool,” said Avery Borgmann ’20.

The early-season tournament gave the NCS students a chance to prepare for upcoming meets. It also embodies many elements in the 2018-2023 Strategic Plan, including “increasing opportunities for students to gain skills, apply knowledge, and seek solutions in the evolving digital world,” and “providing experiences beyond classroom instruction that allow for exploration and lead to improved self-knowledge.”

An end-of-day ceremony announcing results was highlighted by a keynote speech from Dr. Betsy Southerland, a former U.S. Environmental Protection Agency official, who spoke about the importance of public service as a career choice for young scientists.
    • Avery Borgmann ’20 and Miranda Giambi ’20 test their Rube Goldberg machine in the Mission Possible category of competition.

    • Competing in the Boomilever category, Hailey Kim ’19 and Mia Millstein ’19 assess the load capacity of a bridge they constructed.

    • Elena Arvanitis ’19 and Courtney Green ’20 watch as their mousetrap car races across the Middle School Assembly Room.