Saline High School Hosts First Science Olympiad by Drew Saunders STN Reporter

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Saline High School hosted its first science Olympiad to great success, Saturday. The scientific competition brought in 23 teams from 11 school districts to compete in different STEM-related challenges. Schools with multiple teams were assigned colors to identify them.

“I’m really excited about how this turned out. We had some minor glitches, but for our first time tournament, the way it turned out was excellent,” Saline High School’s coach, Nath Akella, said. “I see a ton of smiling students, happy students and it is a really exciting day for us. I’m proud of all of the kids who came out here, during Covid times, to do this.”

The competitions challenge students to apply what they learned in the classrooms in real competitions, to help them determine what they want to do in college and eventually in the workforce. The Wright Brothers competition for example, had students make model airplanes with specific specifications; and had them fly around the room for time. In one of the gyms, was ping pong parachute, where kids built bottle rockets from carbonated drink bottles to launch a ping pong ball up and then come back down on a small parachute.

“The purpose of this event is to have your parachute fly the longest. The PSI has to be less than 50,” Swathi Bangera, a coach from Canton High School, said. “It’s been a fun event.”

Another competition involved building bridges to undergrow a stress test experiment. The goal for students like Alice Jiang was to build as light a bridge as possible, that could hold as much weight as possible.

“It was a bit nerve racking because it was my first competition, but it went pretty fun. I got to see a lot of other cool designs,” Jiang said. “I’ve done things like this since fourth grade. The science Olympiad has allowed me to explore a lot of topics. … I’m not sure on any career paths so far, but this one has been very interesting.”

Alice Jiang with her bridge model.

Jiang’s bridge weighed 15 grams and held about 11 kilograms. Shanmukund Buditha, who was from Athens High School in Troy, built a 40 gram bridge and held 14.6 kilograms.

Shanmukund Buditha with his bridge model.

“Science Olympiad has really narrowed my careers down. It has shown me my passion for biology and engineering,” Buditha said. “It’s made me realize what sciences I like and what careers I might be able to do. I’m currently in a dilemma between engineering and med school.”

Each competition had at least six teams competing in it. Teams from Saline won first place in the dynamic planet, green generation, remote sensing, and ping pong parachute competitions. The scores were calculated by the organizer in order to award trophies to the six best teams. Brighton Orange won sixth place, Salem High School won fifth, East Grand Rapids got fourth, Northview Gold won third, East Lansing won second and West Lake Green won the largest trophy.

The number of teams was capped at 24 because this was Saline’s first time hosting such an event. Next year, Akella is hoping to double that number to increase competition.

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