Exeter Township Senior High School won first place with Fleetwood in second and Wilson in third at the 2020 Berks County Science Olympiad at Kutztown University on Thursday, Jan. 9.

“Science Olympiad gives kids a chance to expand on some things that they might learn in the classroom or maybe not have experiences in the classroom. It is a STEM type of competition that has been around for close to 30 years, long before the word STEM ever became popular,” said Exeter Township Senior High School science teacher Lowell Keebler, Berks Science Olympiad co-coordinator with KU professor Dan Blanchard.

About 250 students from 16 high schools competed including Antietam, Bayard Rustin, Boyertown, Daniel Boone, Central York, Conrad Weiser, Exeter, Fleetwood, Governor Mifflin, Henderson, Reading, Sun Valley, Twin Valley, West Chester East, Wilson, and Wyomissing Area.

“Any time that we can get our youngest and brightest minds looking toward science, it’s going to be better for society as a whole,” said Keebler. “We’re trying to encourage kids to go into science so we stay competitive as a nation, move forward as human beings — looking for things that are more efficient, looking for things that help medically, trying to make changes that are positive that are going to be conservation-based, looking toward being good stewards on our planet. All of those things are tied together in the disciplines here.”

Events included Water Quality, Dynamic Planet, Detector Building, Chemistry Lab, Astronomy, Protein Modeling, Designer Genes, Fossils, Forensics, Geologic Mapping, Gravity Vehicle, Sounds of Music, Wright Stuff, Ping Pong Parachute and Boomilever, to name a few.

“You have events in physics, chemistry, biology, earth-based science, technology, building, manufacturing and even things that are the nature of science inquiry,” said Keebler. “We want to push kids in that direction because hopefully there’s going to be a good benefit somewhere down the road for all of us.”

Boyertown sophomores Mark Longenberger and Josh Leshinskie enjoy building, engineering and competing but winning is what makes it fun. Their second and third year participating, the challenges and new events bring them back year after year.

“It’s a learning experience. You can apply what you learned here to pretty much anything else in life,” said Mark. “There’s a lot of STEM and technology events that help you apply and learn what you like and don’t like which will help me in the future be able to decide what engineering field I’m going to go into.”

Exeter seniors Christopher Good and Nicolas Ciabattoni participated in Gravity Vehicle that required their vehicle slide down their ramp and glide across the floor to a set distance.

“It’s a unique challenge but it’s not too difficult to the point where it’s impossible,” said Christopher. “If you put enough time and effort into it, you’ll get a good result.”

“I think it was really cool because we got to test for like hours after school and get closer and closer and finally when you hit the right mark, it’s the best feeling in the world,” said Nicolas.

Fleetwood seniors Zachary Haas and Andrew Slusser liked figuring out which curve in the ramp gave the car the maximum velocity to travel the fastest but also stop at the right distance.

Andrew has an interest in engineering and Haas hopes to be an aerospace engineer. Haas said events like the Gravity Vehicle apply to what he hopes to do in the future, “working with and building things that will obviously have to move fast so this is very practical in that aspect as well.”

Reading High senior Cristal Tineo likes getting to compete with other schools, “Step out of my comfort zone and experiment with new things. I want to become a surgeon so learning about other science fields in case I want to go into a different one because I do like STEM.”

Exeter junior Risha Musuku and sophomore Kira Marr like the array of events. For Musuku, Chemistry Lab showed her what she might be doing in her desired career as a pharmacist. Marr wants to be an engineer so she competed in engineering-based events, like the Write Stuff (flying a plane) and Boomilever.

“I love being able to study things that I love,” said Fleetwood senior Jon Hope competes in Astronomy and wants to study aerospace engineering in college.

“I love competing with my friends,” said Fleetwood senior Mamadou Mjaooh, who competed in Anatomy and Physiology and hopes to be a science major.

At the Boomilever event, West Chester East juniors Radhika Nair and Cecilia Castaneda put their lever design to the test.

“I like that it’s hands-on and I like that you have the opportunity to build in different ways to try to hold the most weight,” said Cecilia.

“Also, while building, I like experimenting and seeing which designs would best work to meet the criteria,” said Radhika, who wants to be an engineer. “I love that they suggest different ways and better ways to make our designs better. I felt really comfortable talking with him.”

Fleetwood physics teacher Damian King ran the Boomilever event and Wilson physics teacher Joe Melograna ran the Machines event which is a combination of levers.

“I like seeing the kids come in with their creativity, what they bring to the table and trying something new,” said King. “That opportunity to teach them a little bit.”

“They get to work on something that’s outside of the realm of regular curriculum that we cover in school, kind of pushes them to do creative things outside of the scope of the regular classroom,” said Melograna.

Science Olympiad, an international nonprofit organization devoted to improving the quality of K-12 science education, is conducted at four levels – invitational, regional, state, and national. The Berks invitational on Jan. 9 is designed to prepare students for regional competition. The Central Eastern Regional Science Olympiad at KU on March 11.

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