Science Olympiad team competes at MIT, prepares for regional tournament


Ashley Yen

Students prepare for their tests at MIT for Science Olympiad.

Ashley Yen and Russell Li

Science Olympiad competitors mingled around the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, flying homemade airplanes, mixing solutions to create buffers and frantically snacking while finalizing preparation for events.

On Jan. 12, the Science Olympiad team brought 23 students to participate in the MIT Science Olympiad tournament. Science Olympiad is a competition consisting of 23 events focusing on subjects such as genetics, earth science, chemistry, anatomy, physics, geology, mechanical engineering and technology. Events require team members to take a subject test, engineer a device for a specific purpose or both.

Captains Shomik Ghose, Hanson Yu, Sambhu Balakrishnan and Connie Yu led the team to place 39th out of 75 teams — five places higher than last year. Physics teacher Ryan DePuit, who participated in Science Olympiad while in high school, and chemistry teacher Roxie Allen are the team’s faculty sponsors. DePuit, Allen and Director of Experimental Education Marty Thompson chaperoned the tournament.

The number of students who attended the tournament reflects the increased interest in the Science Olympiad club, which has grown to over 50 students in its third year, including over 20 underclassmen.

“I really enjoyed that we were able to bring our younger members to the tournament,” Ghose, a senior, said. “This year is a rebuilding year for our team. I’m glad that the future of the program is getting experience.”

Seniors Yu and Ethan Pesikoff placed sixth in the “Write It, Do It” event, which requires one member to build a device according to another’s prewritten instructions.

“I’m really glad that Hanson got to go up on the stage and get a medal,” Allen said. “He’s been the underpinning of this whole organization. He’s the one who wanted to go to MIT, who found out about it, who registered us for it. He’s worked really hard to get Science Olympiad going at this school.”  

The team hopes that St. John’s can establish a Middle School Science Olympiad team to prepare students better for the high school competition.

“If we can get it started in Middle School, people can really hone their skill in the things they want to study,” Allen said. “The kids who scored exceptionally well on events have been working on that event for years and years, and they really have learned a lot on their own to get good at something.”

Having gained experience from the tournament, in future years, the Science Olympiad team is planning on assigning events to participants during the summer, giving competitors more time to prepare.

“I would like us to have people who feel they are well prepared for their events because of the time and effort they put in,” Allen said.

According to Ghose, the team did not perform as well as they had hoped at MIT, but members remain confident that they will do well at the Tarleton Regional Science Olympiad tournament on Feb. 23 to qualify for the Texas State Science Olympiad tournament.

“We’re hoping to place in the top two,” senior Joshua Tsai said. “[This goal] might seem ambitious, but MIT was a national level tournament, so we can definitely succeed at a regional, in-state tournament.”