On a blustery cold day, 16 Berks County high schools competed in the local competition of the Science Olympiad on the Kutztown University campus on Jan. 8."The importance of science cannot be overestimated from the medical field such as with CAT scans and MRIs and Ultrasound, to the development of the cell phone and personal computer," said Bill Riedel who has been a coach for seven years, and now is the Berks County coordinator.
He hopes the Science Olympiad promotes students' interest in science.
"The Internet is a result of a collaboration of scientists and engineers. The technology, well being and productivity of our current society are tied to the results of science," said Riedel.
The Science Olympiad, a national organization geared to promote science in schools, included competitions in 23 events and concluded with an awards ceremony at 1:30 p.m.
The local Berks County Science Olympiad was extended to all the schools in the county. Eight local schools participated, including Boyertown, Conrad Weiser, Daniel Boone, Exeter, Fleetwood, Governor Mifflin, Hamburg, and Kutztown.
"The Science Olympiad gives students a better appreciation for science," said Jamie Suarez, a physics teacher from West Chester who judged the Junkyard Challenge.
In the Junkyard Challenge, said Saurez, teams are given a mystery material to incorporate into a major part of their project. The object is to find the mass of the other mystery material.
"This competition applies what you would see in the textbook," he said.
Fleetwood Area High School junior Emma Tobias, 16, of Fleetwood, helped her school achieve first place in the Science Olympiad.
"I like figuring stuff out," she said. "I like how everything is related. It helps explain how everything in the world works."
Tobias won third place with her teammate, Kelsey Ream, in the Environmental Design event.
Exeter High School junior Megan Berbaum, 16, and sophomore Elizabeth Campbell, 15, both from Exeter, came in second for their design for the Elevated Bridge event, giving their school second place overall.
"We're judged on our design's efficiency. The bridge needs to be as light as we can get it, but it needs to hold the most amount of weight," said Berbaum.
Bridges also need to meet dimension specifications before each can compete. Then each bridge is set on a test base where a bucket hooks onto the bridge. A team member then loads sand into the bucket, therefore increasing the weight.
Kutztown Area High School ranked fourth in the overall Science Olympiad competition.
Dustin Hoffman, a freshman, 14, from Kempton, with his partner Patrick Erb, a senior, 18, of Kutztown, represented Kutztown Area High School in the Junkyard Challenge.
"I came up with some of the ideas at home, but I built it at school. It took me about a month and half to build it," said Hoffman.
Erb said he liked participating in the Science Olympiad because "there's a lot of problem solving involved."
For example, the team had five seconds remaining when they finished calculating the mass of a jar.
"We have up to five minutes to do the task. He [Erb] came up with what to do when we were running out of time," said Hoffman.
Erb also participated in the Ecology event in which he came in second place with teammate Madison O'Neil.
"I want to go for school for biotechnology," he said, "but I haven't picked what school yet."
Governor Mifflin High School placed in tenth.
In the Boehm Science building, Governor Mifflin seniors Hannah Martin, 17, and Sarah Haas, 17, both of Shillington, were preparing for the Forensics event. Both students are Science Olympiad veterans, but it was their second year participating in the Forensics event.
"We go in the room and study a crime scene, like they have powder spilled in an area," said Haas. "We have to figure out what happened."
Boyertown High School ranked sixth overall in Thursday's competition.
Boyertown High School sophomore Abigail Golden, 15, of Gilbertsville, said, "I like science because it's always changing. It's never the same for two days. The real interesting part of science is that you can take you own theories and test them."
Golden wishes to continue studying science after graduation. She also wants to see an increase of interest in science.
"Science isn't just for the nerdy high IQ people. I want people to realize science can be for everyone," she said.
The Science Olympiad is held at local, regional, state, and national levels throughout the country.
The regional competition, set for March 13, will be held at Moravian College. This competition is open to all the schools in Berks County and Lehigh Valley.
For more information on the Science Olympiad, visit www.soinc.org.