SALISBURY, MD---From launching Coke bottle rockets and testing helicopter flight times to battling robots and modeling proteins, events at the Maryland Science Olympiad (MSO) are designed to engage students in science-related topics in a fun and competitive way.
On Saturday, March 12, some 80 middle and high school students participate in the Maryland Science Olympiad’s first regional tournament on the Eastern Shore. SU hosts the 14-event competition. Represented are teams of 10-15 students from James M. Bennett and Worcester Technical high schools. A Chesapeake City home school group and four teams from Kent County Middle School also attend.
Throughout the day, the high school students will be asked to identify forensic evidence in crime scenarios, design complex Rube Goldberg-like devices, and build wind and percussion instruments. They also demonstrate astronomy and chemistry skills.
Middle school students will try to characterize substances, create devices from “junkyard” materials, gather quantitative data, and answer questions about microbes, optics and the solar system. Both groups must classify fossils, conduct an experiment, and take tests on anatomy and ornithology. All activities require problem solving and teamwork.
“We are thankful that SU has enthusiastically taken a leadership role for the Eastern Shore,” said Al Causey, the Olympiad’s state director. “The partnership with the University is valuable because it gets kids on a college campus and thinking about science and math careers.”
More than 20 SU students and faculty are serving as judges for the event, and Northrop
Grumman has provided support for team coaches. Other local businesses are invited to get involved as volunteers or sponsors.
“Volunteering gives our state’s scientists and engineers a chance to get back into the education system, providing all kinds of benefits for them and students,” Causey said. Winners of the regional tournament will advance to a state competition on Saturday, April 2, at Johns Hopkins University.
“Events like the Maryland Science Olympiad are important because they help spark students’ interest in learning science,” said Dr. Karen Olmstead, dean of SU’s Henson School of Science and Technology and member of the MSO board. “The whole purpose of the four-year-old program is to improve science education, which will in turn enhance the state’s workforce.”
SU is the third largest producer of teachers in Maryland. Henson and the Seidel School of Education and Professional Studies have modified curriculum to support K-12 science education, adding a secondary education track to the earth science major in 2009 and launching a middle school science education minor in fall 2010.
In addition to hosting the Olympiad, SU supports its own students and prospective applicants who are interested in Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) fields in part through a 2009 National Science Foundation grant. The $996,303 award, the largest from NSF in SU history, is helping SU recruit and engage STEM majors, and ultimately increase the number of graduates entering STEM fields.
The funds have already supported outreach and mentoring for high school juniors and seniors, including eight free Science Nights at SU. Science Camp@SU, a one-week summer program to be held July 17-22, also will feature lab experiments, workshops, team challenges and seminars with professional scientists.
To volunteer at the Eastern Shore regional tournament, call 410-543-6489. For more information, visit www.marylandscienceolympiad.org.