Young scientists travel to DSU to put their scientific knowledge to the test

Students from across the state are polishing their test tubes and reviewing biology notes in preparation for the annual Science Olympiad at Delaware State University March 5.

These scientifically-inclined students will show their mastery in topics ranging from engineering, astronomy, chemistry to biology.  Some of the events will test their critical thinking and analytical skills, while others will test building and engineering skills.

Camden’s Caesar Rodney High School team is looking forward to the portion of the competition where memorization is key.  Kush Patel, 18, is a co-captain of the team. He said this is where the team shines.

“As a team we’re more oriented towards the events that are more like tests,” he said.

Test competitions are held in a laboratory; the team is sent to a small station in the lab where they will have a limited amount of time to answer a question.

During a segment on invasive species, for example,  a student would need to identify whether a species is invasive or not, and what impact it has on the environment.

Cell biology, anatomy and physiology and chemistry are a few examples of competitions with a test format.

Team coach Bart Fennemore said that while they’ll try to participate in as many events as possible, they’ll focus on events where his students have the best chance of winning.

“We’ve got the individual strengths of the students, so whatever their interests are, those are the competitions we’d enter,” he said.

Fennemore said his team won’t be relying heavily on the building portion of the Olympiad.

This requires students to perform a number of engineering tasks, from building remote control cars to testing the aerodynamics of a model plane.

According to Fennemore, the team didn’t participate last year, so it’s still catching up and figuring out where its strong points are. 

This is also his first year coaching.

“This is a completely new experience for me,” he said.  “I’m not sure what I’ve gotten myself into, but I’m excited to find out.”

Fennemore said this is a perfect chance for students to display their skills.

“Part of it is being able to compare themselves to others who have a strong interest in science,” he said. “It’s good to see what’s outside of your own school. It gives [students] the idea of what the real world is going to be like.”

Patel said this is one of the reasons he decided to compete; it gives him a preview of a scientific career.

“Working along with partners whether you’re doing a test or building something together is like a work setting,” he said.  “This is going to be in the future where you’re supposed to be prepared for anything.”

During the Olympiad students, win by the number of points they accumulate, with varying point scales for each event. At the end the points are added, and the team with the most points wins.

Patel, who plans on becoming a biologist, said victory is all about preparation. He’s confident his team will perform well.

“Of course, everyone’s a little nervous, but we’ll get there and everyone will be ready next Friday.”

The March 5 competition, held from 8 a.m. to 3:30 p.m., will be Division C for high school students. Middle School students (Division B) will compete on March 19.

A national tournament will be held at the University of Wisconsin in May.