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Science Olympiad regional event held at WNMU

Article and Photos by Mary Alice Murphy

The annual Middle School and High School Southwest Regional Science Olympiad was held at the Western New Mexico University Intramural Gym and Harlan Hall on Saturday, Jan. 25.

According to Bill Norris, one of the coordinators, the event began in the early 1990s. New Mexico schools host five regional events and the top eight teams in Division C, high school, at each regional event are eligible to compete at the state level in late February. The Division B, middle school teams, send nine teams to state.


At this year's event, 15 teams from 10 area high schools and 19 teams from 14 middle schools participated. Silver High School and La Plata Middle School each had two teams competing. Aldo Leopold Charter School sent a high school team and a middle school team.

Teams at the event included students from Lordsburg, Deming, Las Cruces and Hatch.

"This is a national event," Norris said. "Those who win at state are eligible to participate at the national competition."

He said the southwest regional event held in Silver City has twice as many middle schools and more high schools participating than at any other regional event. About 400 students, parents and coaches were taking part in and watching mechanical events at the gym, and tests at Harlan Hall.

Norris said the event is sponsored by WNMU, with event supervisors being faculty, staff, community members and former participating students.

"About 60 are donating a day of their time, as well as time before the event, preparing for the students," Norris said. "I see it as a wonderful opportunity for public schools to have academic challenges, in addition to their school work.

John Trewern, one of the middle school coaches, said the students were aiming for their eighth year going to state. "The competition is tripling. The team that qualifies for international gets a full-ride scholarship and the members are usually picked up by MIT.  The first place at state gets a full-ride scholarship to New Mexico Tech.

Among the volunteers for the event was Roland Shook, retired WNMU professor, at the boomilever event. Members of the Silver Wings Radio Control Club judged the elastic launch of a glider. They watched for technique and measured how long it took the glider to land.

Emily Stone, Silver High School junior, participated in two events. First was the boomilever to see how much weight a balsa-wood structure could support, and the second a wooden rolling cart, with an egg on the front. The cart was propelled by a falling mass. The intent was to get as close as possible to the wall, without breaking the egg.  Each team had up to five attempts, unless the egg broke and dripped, at which point they were out.

Other events in the gym included a car race made out of wood that "was not too heavy and not too light," according to participant Nicholas Billings, who participated along with his friend, Cole Rogers.  Cole reported their cars "were pretty accurate." Nicholas said it took about a month to build and test his car.

At Harlan Hall, students worked out problems at the Circuit Lab and in Technical Problem Solving, among other events that had taken place earlier that morning.

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