ASU 2019 Arizona Science Olympiad student in goggles and lab coat

Science Olympiad builds Arizona’s STEM pipeline

By

Hannah Moulton Belec

On a recent sunny Saturday at Arizona State University, the Tempe campus was buzzing with middle and high schoolers in lab coats and goggles, sprinting between buildings and labs.

The students were taking part in the state competition of the Arizona Science Olympiad on April 6. This is the third year that the event has been held at ASU, showcasing science, technology, engineering and math fields as well as campus life to young students.

A totoal of 66 teams from middle and high schools around the state competed in 23 events at the state competition. Winners will advance to the national competition in June at Cornell University in Ithaca, New York. The team from University High School in Tucson won the high school division, and the team from Paragon Science Academy in Chandler won the middle school division.

Reina Gomez, state director for Arizona Science Olympiad, said that the event is an opportunity for students who excel academically to get awards, medals and trophies that are usually awarded in athletic events.

She also said that having the event, presented with Access ASU, at the university allows the students to become familiar with the campus and college in general.

“They understand that, ‘Hey, I could go to ASU, I see other people there that look like me. They’re like me. They’re doing events that I like,’” Gomez said.

Events ranged from tests of academic knowledge — like identifying live reptile specimens — to physics and chemistry activities.

Nikita Kumari, a fourth-year PhD student at ASU studying biophysical chemistry, hopes to teach after graduation. She facilitated one of the chemistry activities where students tested the pH levels of household liquids like Sprite and mouthwash.

“It’s interesting because I get to see high school students excited about science, and that is fun for me,” Kumari said.

Students were all smiles at the herpetology activity that featured live snakes, geckos and tortoises.

Marshall Frank, an eighth grader from Prescott Valley, said that he likes the Olympiad because of the different events.

“No matter what field of science you’re into, there’s always something for you to do here,” Marshall said.

Lorenzo Chavez, assistant vice president for outreach at ASU said that the university is proud to have a legacy of presenting the event.

“ASU is excited to host the state science olympiad tournament for the third year in a row because the event exemplifies the innovation and creativity that the institution prides itself on,” Chavez said.

“The students attending are some of the best and brightest in the state of Arizona, and it is an honor to be part of this special day. As an institution that is dedicated to the Arizona community, we see our support for the event as an opportunity to connect participants to the university, faculty and staff.”