The Saline High School Science Olympiad team hopes to keep improving


Students sophomore Weiran (Alice) Jiang at left, senior Kira Saporsky (middle) and senior Ryan Landini,along with their new Coach/Advisor Monica Sieh (at the lectern) and former coach Nath Akella (far left). photo is a screen shot from the online meeting

The Saline High School Science Olympiad team is going strong, but it wants to get better.

The team finished third in the state tournament this past school year, and now they are hoping to improve upon that.

From expanding their team to potentially looking for help from local partnerships and to the school bond vote, the Science Olympiad went before the Saline Area Schools Board of Education at its Oct. 11 meeting to give a presentation about the team, and their plans and hopes.

Representing the team were its captains: seniors Kira Saporsky and Ryan Landini, and sophomore Weiran (Alice) Jiang, along with their new Coach/Advisor Monica Sieh and former coach Nath Akella.

The students gave the school board an overall look at the team and program.

Jiang said Science Olympiad contains 23 events with a variety of topics covered, from earth and science to biology, chemistry, physics and engineering. The competitions include two overall areas, build and study.

To explain a build, she referenced a model bridge she built for a past event and for study she cited a competition where knowledge of forensics was tested.

Saline sophomore Weiran (Alice) Jiang with a bridge model she created. image courtesy of the Saline High School Science Olympiad team

Among a few topics Saporsky talked about was the success of the team, which last year saw them first at regionals and third in states.

Akella, who coached the high school team for the past eight years and was involved with the program for 16 years, has retired but is still advising, introduced the new coach. Akella said he was honored to be part of the program.

With a similar sentiment, Sieh said she is excited about being coach and couldn’t be prouder of the team, even after only a month at the helm.

The team talked about at an upcoming event on Nov. 19, which will be held at Saline High School (SHS). It’s a collaboration event with Troy Athens High School. The event expects to have more than 30 teams competing.

In looking ahead, the student captains said the team hopes to expand its numbers while continuing to improve on its collaboration, team skills. Landini said a big goal for them this year is to make the nationals.

Some of the school board members asked the team how they might help them achieve their goals.

School board member Brad Gerbe said the upcoming bond vote does have the potential to help all of the STEAM programs in Saline, such as Science Olympiad and Robotics, so it is important.

Gerbe asked the team and coaches, how can the board of education support your program?

In noting the dedication of the team members and their families and other volunteers, Akella said consistent funding is still one barrier for the team. Because of limited finances, the team lacks the ability to go to more top tournaments, which many of their rivals are attending because they do have the funds. He said the cost to do the program can be up to $300 a student. They typically work to fundraise and also have scholarships available for students in need, but he said growing connections locally through partnerships with businesses could be a huge help.

Sieh agreed with others and said the bond set for a Nov. 8 vote is an important one for the team.

As part of the bond’s proposals, if voter-approved, it would add or renovate space in all buildings that would in part have a focus on STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Art and Math) spaces. Rather than the traditional classroom space, the STEAM spaces would be devoted specifically to enhancing the hands-on aspect of STEAM learning.

Landini said space availability and time has been an issue for them, so a devoted space for them would be very helpful.

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