February 8, 2008

“The Little Engine That Could” – the Hilltop Middle School Science Olympiad Team!

By Jill Galvez

The Hilltop Middle School Science Olympiad team was pumped and ready to go when they arrived at Rancho Bernardo High School! Four months of training, studying, and preparing this team of 15 students, led by head coach Jerry Woodward, was ready for this special day and ready to show off their science knowledge – and they did not disappoint.

The fact that these students were ready to participate in this grueling all day event made winners out of all of them even before they stepped onto the campus. For 16 weeks, two days per week, on top of all their homework they normally have to do, these students had to prepare for 23 different events that tested their science knowledge. Students pair up to master and compete in 1-3 different events, matching their strengths and interests to different aspects of science.

Future engineers worked as teams to design devices such as the one pictured above: a vehicle with a raw egg mounted to the front, powered only by a 2 Kg falling mass, propelled forward with the ability to stop itself within millimeters from a wall (without breaking the egg). The wall would be arbitrarily set anywhere between 8 meters and 12 meters, in half meter increments, on the day of the competition. Students Tatiana Galvez and Maria Jose Alanis from Hilltop Middle School are shown in the photo with the appropriately labeled “Scrambler”.

Other exciting competitions included “The Tower”, in which teams built a tower that had the lowest weight to strength ratio. Ultra light balsa wood with glue was used to design Eiffel Tower-like structures, weighing mere grams, which could support tens of kilograms of weight without breaking. “Balloon Launch Glider” challenged students to build an ultra light glider that could be raised to the top of an auditorium by a helium balloon, launched from its perch, to earn first prize by staying in the air the longest.

The competition was fierce because of the prestigious scholarships that are awarded to winning student teams at the state and national level. But as team leader Mr. Woodward stated, “my goals for the students have always been to have an enjoyable experience, learn and be more exposed to science, develop teamwork and discipline, and to represent their school in a positive manner. They did this superbly!”

Unfortunately, not every student nor every team can go home with a trophy or a medal around his or her neck. For many students, it is disappointing to learn that while he is one of the brightest students in his school, there are other students who have worked harder than he has, and other schools that have aimed their science curriculum to win such competitions as the Science Olympiad. We would like to tell these students that we are proud of their efforts and achievements. What they have learned not only builds their character, but can never be taken away from them. We hope to see all of the students who competed in this year’s event return next year with a strong desire to learn and (hopefully) win some of those coveted Science Olympiad medals and trophies.

Watch out next year….Hilltop Middle is coming back to the Science Olympiad to Win. Go Falcons!

Jill Galvez, parent of Tatiana, was one of the many parent volunteers who helped coach the members.

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