SJC's Science Olympiad a Success

March 3, 2017

On February 25, 2017, Saint Joseph’s College in Rensselaer, Indiana sponsored its 27th annual Science Olympiad Regional Tournament, a competition for high school and middle school students.  11 high school teams from 10 schools, and 11 middle school teams from 10 schools participated. The teams, with about 380 students total (200 high school and 180 middle school), were welcomed to the Saint Joseph’s College campus by the tournament directors (Professor and Chair of Chemistry Dr. Rob Pfaff; Professor of Chemistry Dr. Anne Gull; senior Biology major from Fishers, Ind. Amy Southworth; senior Biology and Chemistry major from Manhattan, Ill. Alex McCormick; junior Biology major from Covington, Ind. Kristina Steward; and sophomore Biology-Chemistry major from Bridgeview, Ill. Mary Keenan). The directors worked closely together and with our volunteers to the point of exhaustion in the days leading up to the event to ensure the tournament experience was the best we could give our visitors.

Bringing Science Olympiad to Saint Joseph’s College is a huge undertaking involving almost 100 students, faculty, and staff.  All public spaces in Evans Arts and Science Building, Rev. Charles Banet, C.PP.S. Core Education Center, the Rec Center, and the Richard F. Scharf Alumni Fieldhouse were in use.

During the day, competitors participated in a wide range of science and technology events.  Some, such as the Anatomy and Physiology, Fossils, and Astronomy events, tested students’ knowledge of the subject areas.  Others, such as Chemistry Lab, Experimental Design, and Game On, tested the students’ ability to solve problems they were not previously told about.  Still others, such as Mission Possible, Electric Vehicle, Wind Power, and Aerial Scramble, required students to build devices before coming to the tournament and the events tested their performance.  In all, both the middle school group and the high school group each competed in 25 separate events.

Science Olympiad is the largest single public outreach activity hosted by Saint Joseph’s College each year and we are aware of several current students who chose Saint Joe, in part, because of their middle school and high school experiences with Science Olympiad.  Further, the school coaches recognize the efforts of our students.  One high school coach sent an email following the tournament that said, in part, “Thanks again for the great Regionals through the years.”  Similar comments were heard throughout the tournament from students, coaches, and parents.  It was particularly rewarding to watch students receive medals for their accomplishments, in some cases moved to tears.

The day ended with the presentation of medals to the top finishers in each event, as well as medals and trophies for the top finishing teams.  In the Saint Joseph’s Regional, the top teams were:

 Middle SchoolHigh School
1st PlaceHebron MSBishop Dwenger HS, Fort Wayne
2nd PlaceWinamac MSMarian HS, Mishawaka
3rd PlaceLowell MSWinamac HS
4th PlaceBoston MS, Team #1, LaPorteIndiana Academy for Science, Mathematics, and Humanities, Muncie
5th PlaceMaconaquah MS, Bunker HillPeru HS, Team #1
6th PlaceRensselaer MSRensselaer HS

The top five middle school teams and the top five high school teams received invitations to compete in the Indiana State Tournament March 18 at Indiana University Bloomington.  In addition, the 6th place middle school team and the 6th place high school team were invited to a wildcard qualifying tournament on March 11 at Ivy Tech Community College – Lafayette.  The winners at the State Tournament will advance to the National Science Olympiad Tournament, being held this year in May at Wright State University in Dayton, Ohio.

The tournament’s student co-directors presented two awards, which are named for their first recipients.  The Pryor Alumni Award was presented to Lindsey ’11 and Brent ’10 Ropp.  Both were involved throughout their student years and have made the trip to volunteer for the SJC tournament since graduation.  Lindsey also spent two years as a student co-director. The Lugosan-Kellenburger Student Award was presented to Amy Southworth ’17 and Alex McCormick ’17 for superior service to Science Olympiad over their entire college careers, including two years as student co-directors.  We were pleased to have Crystal ’09 and Mike Pryor and Adri Lugosan ’16 and Payton Kellenburger ’16 present to give the awards named after them.

The 2017 Science Olympiad tournament was particularly challenging and moving due to the announcement earlier this month that Saint Joseph’s College will be closing at the end of this school year, meaning this year’s tournament will be the last at SJC.

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