Students from the Clark High School Science Olympiad club won the school’s first gold medal at the 29th Annual Science Olympiad National Tournament May 17 and 18 at Wright State University in Dayton, Ohio.
The event featured 120 middle school and high school teams that had advanced from state competitions. Teams competed in more than 20 hands-on lab events and tests designed by top scientists at national universities. Categories included physics, robotics, astronomy, chemistry, biology and engineering. One challenge, for example, was to build a student-controlled robotic arm to perform precision tasks.
Science Olympiad is a Chicago-based national nonprofit organization founded in 1984 that promotes science, technology, engineering and math education. Nearly 200,000 students on 6,800 teams competed in regional and state tournaments last year.
The team from Clark, 4291 W. Pennwood Ave., has won the state competition the past four years and brought home its first gold medal in the water quality category, led by team members Zachary Shattler, a senior, and Michael Zhou, a recent graduate.
Shattler, vice president of Clark’s Science Olympiad club, has been to the competition the past four years, beginning as an eighth-grader at Hyde Park Middle School, 900 Hinson St.
“It’s definitely gotten me to put more effort into something and to do that in school as well,” he said of the Olympiad. “... It’s helped raise my work ethic. And seeing all the really smart kids kind of gives me hope for the future. There are more people out there like them. It’s kind of motivating to see.”
Shattler said he also likes being able to see a variety of college campuses, as the tournament moves to a different host university each year. As part of the Olympiad, his team has toured the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, the University of Wisconsin-Madison and the University of Central Florida in Orlando.
“It’s pretty nice because I’m sure I wouldn’t have been able to do it any other way,” Shattler said. “They have tours of the science departments. It gives you a taste for the college, (and) you get to see if maybe you want to go there or not.”
Shattler, a Boulder City resident, said he is undecided about where he wants to go to college. His gold medal partner, Zhou, plans to attend Princeton University in the fall.
Another Clark senior and president of the Science Olympiad club, Craig Grant, said the club lost “the bulk of the team” to graduation, and rebuilding with new recruits will be a challenge in the upcoming school year. He said the club holds tryouts and usually has between 40 and 50 students, of which the top 15 travel to the national competition.
“It connects all the kids at the school from freshmen to seniors,” said Grant, a Summerlin resident. “Everyone can really bond over (science).”
Like Shattler, Grant has been to the past four national competitions and said it inspires him to be better.
“You get to learn about things you might not normally think about,” he said. “It broadens your horizons and promotes competitive spirit. There are always smarter kids. You just keep telling yourself that and it makes you work harder.”
For more information, visit soinc.org.
Contact View education reporter Jeff Mosier at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-224-5524.