Science Olympiad team wins fifth state title

By Martha Marteney - Staff Writer
South Windsor - posted Thu., Apr. 7, 2011
More than 80 students at Timothy Edwards Middle School participate in the Science Olympiad. Shown here are several of the students who recently competed at the state level, taking first place for the fifth consecutive year, along with teacher-coach Deb Bajorek (left) and program founder David Anderson (right). Photos by Martha Marteney.
More than 80 students at Timothy Edwards Middle School participate in the Science Olympiad. Shown here are several of the students who recently competed at the state level, taking first place for the fifth consecutive year, along with teacher-coach Deb Bajorek (left) and program founder David Anderson (right). Photos by Martha Marteney.

The Timothy Edwards Middle School Science Olympiad team recently won its fifth consecutive state title and is looking forward to participating in the national event in May.

On March 26, TEMS students took first place in Connecticut’s Division B competition for grades six through nine. The team is now ranked 49th in the United States out of 6,200 teams.

The program was started at TEMS only seven years ago by teachers David Anderson and Jim Guida. At that time, Anderson contacted the national organization in order to establish the program in Connecticut. Anderson and Guida were the first two team coaches at TEMS, mentoring 12 students the first year. Teacher Laurie Chestone joined the program shortly after its founding at TEMS.

The TEMS Science Olympiad team now has 83 participating students and 10 teacher-coaches. Through special assignments and after-school workshops, the students prepare by studying a variety of topics, such as geography, chemistry, anatomy and technology, in order to prepare for the 18 events at the competitions. For the competitions, each school is allowed two teams of 15 students, plus alternates. In order to participate in the competitions, the TEMS students must show their commitment, as well as their knowledge.

Eighth-grader Alli has been involved with the Science Olympiad for three years, having become interested after watching her sister participate. She focuses on chemistry events, such as “Crime Busters,” which challenges the teams to solve a crime through lab analysis. “We study all the time,” said Alli. Students prepare for the competition through after-school events and practice tests.

“I’m so very proud of our students,” TEMS Principal Kristen Heckt said, adding that she feels it is a huge honor to have won the state championship. “I think involvement in any activity is positive for the kids,” she said. She acknowledged not only the hard work and effort on the part of the students, but of the staff as well. “They give 150 percent,” she said.

The students also appreciate the extra effort their coaches give. Speaking about teacher-coach Chestone, Alli said, “She has a lot invested in it to help us succeed.”

“He’s very flexible with us,” Peter said, about teacher-coach Jeff Goric. “He let us restart if we messed something up.”

Speaking about teacher-coach Arnica Breene, Palak said, “She’s been our rock.” The students appreciated Breen’s follow-through and dedication, as well as the homework and exercises she assigned.

Aashka thanked teacher-coach Patti Stamper and Anderson for their time sacrifices. “They’ve both been very supportive,” she said. Students and coaches alike often work through vacation weeks and on Saturdays to keep the team moving forward.

Margaret placed sixth in the national competition last year in the “Compute This” event. “It was really hard,” Margaret said, regarding the challenge of capturing quantitative data from the Internet and presenting the data using the graphing functions of Microsoft Excel. So far this year, Margaret and her partner, Aashka, both eighth-graders, came in fourth at the state competition.

“I love it,” said seventh-grader Palak. From her participation, Palak said she has learned both to be independent and to value the importance of teamwork.

Some of the events are designed to highlight a certain technique. For example, explained eighth-grader Faith, in “Can't Judge a Powder,” the students are given one pure substance, which they must then test and characterize. This event focuses on the scientific process of analysis, and does not require the students to identify the powder, which could only be inferred based on the test results.

“You meet a lot of kids you would not know otherwise,” noted eighth-grader Jack. Through participation in the Science Olympiad and all the time spent together, the students really get to know each other, including students from different grades and classes.

Seventh-grader Michael especially enjoyed traveling with his teammates to the national competition last year, which was held at the University of Illinois in Urbana-Champaign. “It was really fun just being with friends,” said Michael, who noted that the nationals is a completely different atmosphere than states because of the additional people involved.

“The optics [event] is like college-level physics,” said Deb Bajorek, one of the team coaches. Eighth-graders Jennifer and Katherine have been studying optics to learn how light bounces off mirrors and lenses.

For those continuing on to South Windsor High School, they are looking forward to the Science Olympiad class, which is first being offered next year, as well as the after-school programs. Margaret will be attending a private school, which does not currently participate in the Science Olympiad, but she is hoping to work with that school to start the program.

“I learned how well I work with others,” noted eighth-grader Katherine about what she had gained by participating in the Science Olympiad. She also said she learned good study strategies, and, from her exposure to the ecology event dealing with lakes and rivers, may have found an interesting future career.

For more information about the Science Olympiad, visit the school website southwindsorschools.org, the state website ctscienceolympiad.org, or the national website soinc.org.


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