Our daughter’s partner carefully blew up the air bladder and inserted the ping pong ball as our daughter aimed to hit the quarter-sized target 2 meters away. She released the trigger and ploosh! Their ball got within 8 centimeters of the target! The girls were off to a great start at the Regional Science Olympiad Competition.
When our 11-year-old daughter started middle school, she was thrilled to qualify for the Science Olympiad Team and get her top event choices in unusual subjects like Air Trajectory, Entomology, Fossils, and Invasive Species. Although she was the one that ultimately competed, getting ready for it became a fun family activity.
We helped develop her learning and research skills in a variety of ways. We worked with her to effectively use the Internet to search for information about invasive species, fossils, and insects. We used apps to build flashcards about families and orders of insects and geologic terms. We even created spreadsheets to organize the information about different flora and fauna.
All of us learned interesting information like the scientific name of grasshoppers (Orthoptera), but we had the most fun with Air Trajectory. The challenge was to build a triggered device that converted gravitational energy into air pressure to launch a ball at targets between 2 and 8 meters away.
Our family brainstormed different ways to build the structure; searched our home, online, and hardware stores for parts; and built the device using screw drivers, Allen wrenches, and lots of duct tape. We spent hours testing and fine tuning the device. Our 11 year old worked the device, while my husband and I took turns helping her set it up and make adjustments and our 8 year old marked where the balls landed.
At the team practices, our daughter got to work with teammates who were also really interested in science. All of their preparation culminated at the Regional Science Olympiad Competition where 42 teams of up to 15 students from all over the county competed in 23 different events including Wheeled Vehicle, Potions & Poisons, Solar System, Anatomy, and Robocross. It was great to see so much camaraderie and school spirit at a science and technology event – 2 teams even had their school mascots cheering them on!
We had heard that Science Olympiad was a great opportunity for students interested in science to learn about different subjects that aren’t covered in school. What we found was a great way for our daughter (and our entire family) to develop research and learning skills to explore science and technology.
- Skills: Visual acuity (observing small details), gross motor, fine motor, curiosity
- Preparation: We spent hours working on it together as a family over several months. The team met once a week for 2 hours at the beginning, which became twice a week for 6 hours as the competition got closer. It’s up to the kids to decide how much time they want to spend preparing for it outside of the team sessions.
- Cost: None – the Science Olympiad Team is funded through the school district. Although we could have submitted expenses for the air trajectory device, we decided to pay for the parts ourselves.
- Time & Energy: The competition itself was an all-day event.
- Contact Info: Check your school’s website to see if they offer Science Olympiad as a club. There are different divisions for elementary, middle, and high school students. Science Olympiad has a website with information about events and competitions (http://soinc.org)