Stuyvesant Science Olympiad Team Places Third at State Championships

Stuyvesant’s team places third at the New York Science Olympiad State Championships.

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Stuyvesant’s Science Olympiad (SciOly) team was one of the sixty teams competing at the New York State Science Olympiad Championships at Le Moyne College in Syracuse from March 18 to 19. At the competition, Stuyvesant’s team ranked third in the state and first in New York City with a score of 286, the highest that the team has ever ranked at this level. Ward Melville High School won first place and Great Neck South High School placed second, each receiving a total score of 176 and 241, respectively.

SciOly is split into Study and Technology divisions. Study divisions include Biology, Chemistry, Physics, and Earth Science, in which members compete by taking multiple choice tests consisting of 100 to 200 questions. The Technology division consists of members who compete in building innovative constructions in events such as Bridges, Detector Building, Gravity Vehicle, Wright Stuff, Ping-Pong Parachute, and Trajectory.

For competitions, each team’s overall score is determined by the placements of individual events in the Study or Tech divisions. With each team participating in one of the 23 events total, the teams are ultimately ranked by their combined lowest score.

Leading up to the competition, division captains recruited members, taught them the necessary material to do well at events, and selected who competed in each event. “SciOly is a no-cut club, but selection [for] teams is much more intensive,” senior and SciOly president Olivia Chen said. “That requires students to take mock trials, where the event leaders create their own test, [to] see how they’d do compared to other members.”

Preparation processes differed for each division. Competitors in the Chemistry Division frequently did practice tests, while other divisions, such as Earth Science, focused more on collating content into a reference book. “Earth science questions are more content, such as astronomy, climate, and rocks and minerals. To do well at competitions, you need a good binder and [know] the topic content really well,” senior and division captain of Earth Science Eric Shi said.

Preparation in the Tech Division was more interactive and involved trial and error. In one instance, teams designed and built a bridge under specific requirements with the goal of achieving the highest structural efficiency. “For the Bridges Event, they gave us a set of parameters,” junior and Tech member Kate Alvarez said. “Then you basically just start building, test it, and make another one and it gets better each time.”

Typically, Science Olympiad teams use optional tournaments called invitationals to prepare. However, due to COVID-19 restrictions, members found it difficult to gain experience and practice before the State Championships. “One of the issues we faced this year was the lack of in-person experience. We had so many in-person invitationals that we had registered for, but unfortunately, they were all moved to virtual or canceled,” Chen said. “The lack of in-person invitationals meant that our tech division was unable to test their designs until the actual regional competition and state competition.”

The Study divisions also experienced difficulties when practicing for their events due to the pandemic. “For the chemistry lab, we have to do a lot of lab practicals too. Since it was virtual, we weren’t able to practice any of that,” senior and Division Captain of Chemistry Michael Chan said.

Due to the competition being reliant on volunteers, the team also faced some logistical problems, such as conflicting rules from the City to States competitions. “One of the struggles we faced was that we didn’t read the [States] rules on the day of the competition, and we realized that day, so we basically had to scrap our entire month of work and go back to our original design,” Alvarez said.

Despite the challenges, being able to compete in person this year has been the highlight for many members. “All of the other competitions the past year was just everyone doing Zoom in a room and taking a test by themselves,” senior and division captain of Biology Arthur Liang said. “Not to say it was demoralizing, but it just wasn’t a lot of fun; [but] the team environment [this year], that sort of camaraderie and working together to do really well on states was fun.”

Only the top two teams of the state championships proceed to nationals, so Stuyvesant’s team did not qualify. However, many members were pleasantly surprised by placing third in the competition. “We were expecting around fifth, but we knew we were going to make the top ten. We were cheering each time a school name was announced because we knew that meant we ranked higher than expected,” junior Hua Huang said.

The team intends to focus on preparing the next generation of captains to take over. “Third is the best we’ve ever done. Three years ago, we got fifth, and last year, we were fourth, and this year, we were third, so there’s a trend,” Liang said. “We’re really just focused on the next generation with all the graduating seniors figuring out who's taking the reins next year.”

The accomplishments and dedication of the SciOly members at Cities and States this year inspired many to look forward to next year’s prospects. “We were working in our hotel room at 12:00 a.m. the day before the competition, and it just shows the dedication these members have, so I think the future is bright,” senior and Tech division captain Matthew Weng said.