DOBSON — Surry County Early College High School of Design Science Instructor and Science Olympiad Coach Jeff Edwards is understandably proud of his team of 12 students.
The team competed in the Northwest Region Science Olympiad at Atkins High School in Winston-Salem, with almost half of the contestants capturing gold, silver and bronze medals.
“This is the first year for us and I believe we are the first Surry County School to be a part of the Olympiad,” said Edwards. “I know our region is on its third year of hosting the event which has been going on elsewhere for a long time.”
Edwards likened the competition to a track meet with 23 events. The science Olympiad’s events range from engineering to general scientific knowledge. Winners from the competition will advance to the state tournament in Raleigh. He explained there are two different ways to win in the Olympiad. Highest overall team scores can allow an entire team of 12 to advance and individual first place finishes will allow participants to advance to state.
According to Edwards, eight teams participated in the competition and the Early College competed in the high school division. Counties involved included Yadkin, Davie, Forsyth and Wilkes. Kasey Bowman and Taylor Gabbey placed first in the Write It Do It competition with Gabbey finishing third in astronomy. Bowman and Miranda Jones finished third in the Water Quality category. Jesse Kimel and Emi Jones were first in the invasive species division with Jones second in the rocks and minerals competition. Kimel and Jones also took second in the remote sensing category.
Other team members included Ryan Jones, Kelley Ingram, Corey Galyean, Justin Busick, Sarah Dunning, Patrick Young and Chasen Smith. Team members said the competition was strict but fun with many of the events being nothing like they had imagined.
Kimel said he anticipated the remote sensing challenge would be “sitting me down with a test asking about why specific spectra of light were used to scan something.” Instead he was asked what each satellite system was used for a specific project and was asked to read satellite images.
“It surprised me. I had practiced questions about the light spectrum used by satellites not why specific satellites are used. Honestly, looking back on it I have no idea how I scored that well.”
Emi Jones characterized herself as a person comfortable with the outdoors. She said she never feels lost when she’s in the forest where she spent time growing up. The competition on invasive species seemed a natural area for her since she was familiar with wildlife. It was the first time this subject was included in the Olympiad.
“The competition had a series of stations where we turned over a paper with a species on it or an environmental question and we had to offer a solution,” recalled Jones. “Right from the start it was different. One of the first questions asked us what Kudzu smelled like.” While being familiar with kudzu jelly, she had never smelled the blooms. Jones said they guessed at “citrusy” and nailed it.
Kimel and Jones said they were just “too freaked out” by a picture of a type of nematode which infests the bladders of eels to even attempt a solution. She said the team is excited about going to state but said they will probably be more nervous than they were at regionals.
She also found being the sole Surry County participants in the rock and mineral competition was unnerving but soon settled down when she saw the questions. Participants were only allowed a field guide, a notebook and a magnifying.
“It was simple. It was mostly about luster, color and streaking in the rocks. It was basic earth science,” said Jones. “I actually got worried on this and then was relieved. I even finished the extra questions before time was up.”
Miranda Jones and Kasey Bowman were also in for a surprise in the water quality division. The duo had prepared for questions about particulates and contaminants in water. They had used the tune from a Beatles song to remember beetles found in water. The challenge was about determining water quality by what was found living in the water. They had to build a hydrometer to test salinity using blue clay and calibrate it.
Early College team member Taylor Gabbey said she found the Write It and Do It competition difficult but fun. Her challenge was to take an object apart in her mind and write detailed instructions for her teammate, Kasey Bowman, to re-assemble within twenty minutes.
Points were given not only for the shortest time but for the team who had the most accurate and detailed directions. At one point Bowman, who was in another room with windows covered with yellow construction paper, realized she hadn’t put a sticker and a pipe cleaner in the correct spot and had to tear apart the cup volcano and rebuild it.
“These people were serious. They had even stopped the clock in the room I was in so I would know how much time I had left,” said Bowman. “It was a lot of fun. When Taylor and I practiced we would try our directions out on other teammates to be sure we were writing clearly.” The two said the biggest difficulty was what was left, right, back or side.
The final nasty surprise for the team was Gabbey’s participation in the Astronomy division. She was told the written test would be on super novas and a star’s life cycle. The test set in front of her asked her to determine which cameras had been used to take pictures of stars based on the scale in the photographs.
She left four questions blank as time ran out and said she guessed at the rest. Gabbey finished third in the category.
“It was a miracle it worked out,” said Gabbey. “They were calling out the awards and I didn’t expect to place. I had already told our coach Astronomy was not going to be one we’d place in.”
Edwards said he is hopeful their participation will encourage teams from other schools to compete in the Olympiad next year. He said persons may obtain more information on the event at www.sciencenc.com.
Reach David Broyles at email@example.com or 719-1952.