Stuyvesant’s Science Olympiad Team Wins Regional Competition
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Nerves of Stuyvesant competitors from the Science Olympiad (SciOly) team were jangly as Townsend Harris High School jumped to an early lead at the NYC Science Olympiad Regionals. Schools across the city came to Grover Cleveland High School on February 8 to compete. Despite early anxiety, Stuyvesant swept subsequent parts of the competition and took home their third consecutive regional victory.
While SciOly members were confident in their abilities, they were up against strong opponents at Regionals. “We knew we were one of the top three schools going in, with Townsend Harris and Staten Island Tech being our biggest competitors, but we never 100 percent expected to win. The award ceremony, when each specific competition’s winner is declared, occurs at the end of the tournament, so no one knows who the winner is until then. This built up a lot of suspense, ultimately making the victory more worthwhile,” said junior Daniel Gordon, who is on the chemistry team.
Not only did SciOly win, but they also set a record for the lowest points at the NYC Regionals with 90 points. Points are awarded in the competition based on placement, with first place receiving one point, second receiving two points, and so forth. The team with the least amount of points wins the overall competition.
SciOly uses the meticulous and experimental nature of science to compete. Events are split into two divisions, Tech and Study, both of which participated in the recent regional competition.
The Tech division is the hands-on aspect of SciOly that creates projects that correspond to a certain topic. They begin building after they are given a prompt, which they receive months beforehand. At the event, they are judged before a panel and rated based on qualitative and quantitative factors. For instance, when the Tech division was tasked to create a ping-pong parachute, they were judged based on how long the ball was in the air as well as the appearance of the parachute.
Meanwhile, members of the Study division prepare for tests in one of the following four topics: biology, earth science, chemistry, or physics. Upon joining SciOly, members choose which event format they feel suited for and compete in it.
Prior to the NYC Regionals, SciOly had competed in two invitationals earlier in the year with an A team and a B team. The team participated in the Long Island Science Olympiad Invitational at Syosset High School in December. The Stuyvesant A team placed third overall out of 69 schools, while the Stuyvesant B team placed 13th, which boosted morale for the SciOly team. SciOly also competed at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, where the Stuyvesant A team placed 17th and the B team placed 27th.
Attending the invitationals allowed the team to improve on their projects and skills. “The invitationals really helped us see what we need to work on,” sophomore Matthew Weng said. “For example, for Tech, we learned what specific problem we had [with our builds].”
Similarly, senior and treasurer of SciOly Bernard Wang found ways to improve the Tech division’s boomilever event. “We figured out a whole new design that's going to be a lot better,” he said.
The invitationals and the regional competitions are also great experiences for the team to bond. “In the beginning of the year, there was a competitive edge among SciOly members, as we all wanted to qualify. At Regionals, we have to work together to succeed, and I feel that the team’s chemistry was what put us over the edge. Since the competition lasts 10 hours, some members of the Tech team got catering from Subway for lunch, which also was a bonding experience,” Gordon said.
Though SciOly won Regionals, Wang believes the Tech division’s performance left room for improvement, especially in the boomilever event. Compared to the maximum of 15 kilograms, Wang and his division’s boomilever held around 7.5 kilograms. “[For the event], the score [realistically] ranges from 0 to 2,000 points. Our best boomilever got 680, which was enough to medal at Regionals, but we definitely did worse than we thought we could’ve,” Wang said.
Despite the results falling short of personal expectations, Wang sees this year's boomilever event at Regionals as an overall improvement from last year. “Compared to last year’s preparations, designs, and mentality, this year’s a lot better […] at least for boomilever, our team is more vibrant and committed,” he said. “A few years ago, we were fighting for first place, […] last year, we were trying to retain that spot, but it was still tight, and this year we came in expecting to do well.”
Much of SciOly’s success can be credited toward the opening of the Innovation Lab in 2017. Prior to its opening, students of the SciOly team had limited materials and tools to engage in activities. “When I was a freshman, I would be building stuff in room 709, which is the BioLab. There were no tools, and we had to make do with whatever we could use. Now, the Innovation Lab opened, and it’s pretty dope,” senior and president of SciOly Vincent Fong said.
Assistant Principal of Chemistry and Physics and Tech-division coach Scott Thomas credited the team’s improvement not only to the Innovation Lab, but also to their increased work ethic. Many students and faculty have been staying in the Innovation Lab until 6 p.m. every day since the start of the school year, a commitment not made in previous years. “Staying late in the Innovation Lab has had a significant impact on the Science Olympiad Tech team,” Thomas said.
Fong has found SciOly to be a fulfilling experience within a welcoming and supportive community throughout his Stuyvesant career. “SciOly really helps out with school and life in general. It’s one community in which everyone helps each other out with everything. If anything, I feel less overwhelmed,” Fong said.
Despite the accomplishments of the SciOly team, there are also some drawbacks, such as a limit on the number of members who can compete. “I just wish there were more ways to get everyone competing, so we can all have more fun because that’s what we’re all about,” Fong said.
Despite this, Fong expressed faith in his team as they head to states. “States is always pretty tough to win, but I think this year we’re in a really good position, as in perhaps even better than ever before. I think we’re just better prepared because we’ve been [doing well] at tournaments,” he said.
SciOly has qualified and competed at states after winning NYC Regionals the last two years, placing fifth and sixth place in 2018 and 2019, respectively. The team hopes to build off the fifth place finish, one of SciOly’s highest achievements at a state competition.
Though it is Fong’s last year with the team, he is hopeful about the future of SciOly. “It’s not just about winning one year and [not winning next year]. We try to ask upperclassmen, such as myself, to give lessons and teach, so the underclassmen could learn […] we could build step by step, so we’ll always be at the top,” he said.