Science beyond the classroom


Abby Jay

Members of the WHHS Science Olympiad team pose with their commemorative plaque for ranking third in the regional competition. Medals were also awarded to students for placing in the top six of individual events.

At WHHS, a student interested in multiple science fields could take AP Chemistry, perhaps Zoology, Anatomy and Meteorology, maybe even stretch into Physics. But if a student is interested in diving deep into ornithology or learning everything there is to know about forensics, they can explore those topics by joining Science Olympiad.
“I think that Science Olympiad is a really great competition because it tests a lot of fields of science that are outside of the normal scope of the classroom. In that respect you get a much more holistic view of science,” SENIOR Alan Zhang said.
Zhang leads the senior high Science Olympiad team as a co-captain along with fellow SENIOR Matthew Menendez-Aponte. Both captains joined the team because of a general interest in science in the ninth grade.
“I took it in ninth grade, stopped in tenth, and came back the year after because I took Coats-Haan’s class. She really encouraged me to stick with it,” Menendez-Aponte said. Sandee Coats-Haan is the teacher sponsor and coach of the senior high team.
Science Olympiad competitions involve both tests and builds, with most students averaging three to four events each. For the tests, students study everything they can about their subject and then take the test at the event. The builds are a little different. Competitors create their contraptions at home and then bring in the finished project to be graded by the competition’s judges.
“You get to build things that do things. It’s really different, and I think that’s really cool,” Zhang said.
Zhang emphasized the importance of the team working together as well. “Most events are done in pairs, some are even in trios. It’s not just you working alone. You have to learn how to work with your team,” Zhang said.
On March 7, the team competed in the regional competition at Xavier University. Both captains were excited for the competition because of the strength of their team. Their confidence was not misguided; they placed third, 24 team members won medals in 19 different events, and they had their best performance in school history. Placing third qualifies them to compete in the state competition on April 25.
The competition ramps up at state. Not only does a team need to finish in the top two positions to qualify for nationals, but they also must compete against teams that consistently make it to the next round. Regardless of their odds, Menendez-Aponte and Zhang are looking forward to the state level and are prepared to compete.
Both co-captains are planning on pursuing science in college by studying engineering, and they each give credit to Science Olympiad for bolstering their passion for the subject. “I think just the environment [of Science Olympiad] in general is what I like about it. Everyone there is really interested in science and really enthusiastic about it,” Menendez-Aponte said.
“My favorite thing about it is seeing lots of different people interact[ing] in a shared media. There’s so many smart people at WHHS, but sometimes it’s hard to see how that manifests outside of the classroom. Being able to see the preparation that people put into all the different events of Science Olympiad is something you wouldn’t normally see, and that’s really gratifying,” Zhang said.