Nobel Laureate, NSF Exec to Challenge Arkansas’s Future Scientists

Middle and high school teams will compete in the Arkansas Science Olympiad Saturday, April 16, culminating in a 2 p.m. awards ceremony featuring keynote speeches by Nobel laureate in physics, Dr. Robert C. Richardson, and Dr. Katherine Olsen, former deputy director and chief operating officer of the National Science Foundation.

science olympiadThis is the first year Arkansas students have participated in the National Science Olympiad. UALR is partnering with Quachita Technical College to host the event.

About 150 students will compete in various events relating to the solar system, fossils, ecology, bottle rockets, and batteries. One challenge asks students to design a mousetrap-powered vehicle.

Schools partipating include Beebe Junior High School, LISA Academy North and West campuses, Arkansas School for Mathematics, Science and the Arts; Little Rock Central High School, Malvern High School, and Nettleton High School.

“We hope the students enjoy the challenge,” said Dr. Eric R. Kaufmann, founding state director of the Arkansas Science Olympiad and professor of mathematics at UALR. “It’s something our future scientists need. It is all about improving the quality of science education in Arkansas and getting students excited about science and engineering.”

Olsen RichardsonLast year, several Arkansas schools participated in regional Science Olympiad, but were unable to compete further because Arkansas had no statewide Olympiad.

“We have many talented young scientists who are excited about science and engineer-ing,” Kaufmann said. “These students deserve a chance to participate on the state and national level.”

Olsen, now senior adviser in the NSF’s Office of Information and Resource Management, previously served as associate director and deputy director for science in the Office of Science and Technology Policy in the executive office of the president and chief scientist for NASA among a number of other scientific leadership positions.

A physics professor at Cornell, Richardson was previously director of the laboratory of atomic and solid state physics, senior vice provost for research, senior science advisor to the president and provost, founding director of the Kavli Institute for nanoscale science, and senior vice provost for research, emeritus, at the university. His collaborative research in 1971 led to a helium discovery, garnering a 1996 Nobel Prize.

Dr. Martin Eggensperger, associate state director of the Arkansas Science Olympiad and chief academic officer at Ouachita Technical College, was instrumental in bringing Drs. Olsen and Richardson to Arkansas. They will be honored at a luncheon April 16. Eggensperger is a UALR graduate and one of Kaufmann’s Ph.D. students.

Science Olympiad was created 26 years ago to enhance science curriculum with interesting concepts to attract more students to science and technology careers. Currently, 48 states participate.

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