Stuyvesant Science Olympiad Attends Cornell Invitational

Stuyvesant’s Science Olympiad Team placed fourth in the Cornell Invitational competition on November 18, 2023.

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By Ryan Radwan

Stuyvesant’s Science Olympiad (SciOly) Team placed fourth in the Cornell Invitational competition on November 18, 2023. The event, hosted by Cornell University in Ithaca, New York, brought together teams nationwide. This was the second year of competition for Stuy’s team post-COVID and the first time senior and SciOly President Jessica Liu personally organized a competition in full.

SciOly won many individual medals from the events, including the following: Chemistry Lab First Place Team A (Kevin Zhang and Mahir Hossain), Disease Detectives First Place Team A (Alex Zhang and Daniel Chen), Microbe Mission Second Place Team A (Alex Zhang and Tina Siu), Ecology Second Place Team B (Salina Li and Vincent Chen), Detector Building Third Place Team A (Kevin Zhang and Kellen Yu), Forestry Third Place Team A (Ying Chen and Alex Zheng), Robot Tour Third Place Team A (Kellen Yu and Michelle Ng), and Chemistry Lab Third Place Team B (Jessica Liu and Christian Kim).

Stuy’s SciOly team prepares extensively for these competitions, meeting weekly on different days for each field and offering different activities for each branch, especially study and tech. “Study is mainly focused on test-taking abilities and basically [is] like the brains of Science Olympiad. [...] The other division of Science Olympiad is called tech, which is technology, and they focus on engineering and building-based inquiry,” Liu said.

In the study division, the test setting at the Cornell Invitational involved a physical test paper and a wet lab test for certain events. “My experience doesn’t represent the test setting for all divisions because my main events all included wet labs. I didn’t do the labs myself, as I focused more on the theory and trivia, while my partner mainly did the labs. I think for most divisions, it’s typically a 50-minute test (no lab component for most events, except for tech) where you can split up the work between yourself and a partner and both have access to a cheat sheet,” an anonymous competitor said.

This year, the SciOly team expected the exams and experiments to be particularly difficult because there were numerous new events. To ensure all members had knowledge of every question that could come up, study team members completed practice questions and looked through textbooks to create study materials. As the competition date came closer, SciOly met with their teammates to make the final tweaks to their designs and studying needed for success. “As per our tech members, [they] usually are in the innovation lab to work on their builds and work and to tweak things and revise things until they’re as accurate as possible,” Liu said.

With the Cornell Invitational being a national competition, the application process was very selective. Liu explained that the team leaders had to spam the link to the application form to secure their seats in the competition. “Something that we really [prioritized] this year [was] to get as many spots in competitions as possible. This means that this year we were able to send three teams to [this] competitions—which is the maximum amount,” Liu said. 

As a result of the SciOly leadership team’s efforts, Stuy was able to bring a large team to the Cornell Competition. “So each team is made out of 15 team members at most […] [We arranged] them into pairs or triplets so that all 23 events will have somebody doing them. And in each of the 23 events, there is either going to be a paper test form [for study team members] or the tech competitors, for example, will have cars we build. And the test in that event will be judged to see how far your car will go,” Liu said.

SciOly offers a wide variety of science fields for competitors to enter. Due to this, Stuy was able to send three full teams to the November competition. “[The Science Olympiad competition] includes competitions within all six major branches of science[:] biology, chemistry, physics, earth science, technology, and inquiry,” Liu said.

While the team experienced the constant excitement of going to a multi-day tournament, there were still some setbacks. Organizers for the Cornell Invitational had to book a hotel in the next state over, Pennsylvania. “The wakeup call was 4:30 a.m., so everyone was up and ready at 4:30 eating breakfast and getting their papers together,” Liu said.

Another challenge that competitors in the study divisions faced was the preparation for the exams. “I think making sure we had all of our equipment was the biggest challenge, especially since in the division I competed in, it’s really important you are not forgetting something [...] whether that would be equipment or content,” the anonymous competitor said. 

Many of the team members recognized that many of the competing teams were composed of seniors with exceedingly high stress levels. “I think everyone was just excited to have fun—this is our first competition of the year, so everyone was just excited to be back on the bus and spend a couple of nights with [their] best friends in a hotel. I know many people were stressed and worried that they wouldn’t do well in competition, but of course, everyone pulled through. Everyone did great,” Liu said.

After the awards ceremony, the Stuy Science Olympiad team had a great time celebrating their fourth-place overall win. “I feel like everyone was just very excited. I remember it was pitch black outside and it was cold and we were running down the hill to where our bus was parked and everyone was just screaming while taking photos together, and it was a great time,” Liu said.

Reflecting on the competition, Liu noted that she made a lot of great memories with the team. “One of my favorite moments was after our competition. We were waiting for our bus and we decided to take a big group photo on one of Cornell’s hills […] Looking back at that photo, I saw for the first time our new hoodies and I was just really proud to say that this was going to be the start of something amazing,” Liu said.

The competition season for SciOly doesn’t stop here. Later in the year, they will attend many other competitions, from Regionals to MIT, Columbia, and Brown, and State competitions. “And then the weekend after Columbia, we are going to a regional competition, which is an important competition since that’s the competition we will be competing with schools in our region. That will determine which team will be able to go onto the next official level, which is called States,” Liu said. “We’ll have a month and a half of break to get ready for States, which is our major competition. With [that] time, we are going to put in our 200 percent.”

Looking forward to future competitions, Liu is quite optimistic that the team will perform well and continue to enjoy their travel tournament experiences together. “I just realized what [Cornell] was—this was our year. It’s always our year, but this year is also our year,” Liu said.