This weekend nearly 300 middle and high school students from across Arkansas will convene at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock on Saturday, April 6, to show off their science skills in the 9th annual Arkansas Science Olympiad.
The state competition, which is coordinated through UA Little Rock’s STEM Education Center, runs from 9 a.m. to 2:15 p.m. on campus. Students will compete for prizes and the chance to advance to the National Science Olympiad to be held May 31-June 1 at Cornell University in Ithaca, New York, where Bill Nye the Science Guy will greet the teams.
All of the teams participated in regional tournaments to advance to the state tournament. Regional tournaments were held at Northwest Arkansas Community College and Arkansas State University-Newport.
This year’s state Science Olympiad features 44 events – 22 for middle school students (grades 6-8) and 22 events in the high school division (grades 9-12). Each event presents a challenge that students have to solve within a time limit. Medals will be awarded in each event, and trophies awarded to the highest-scoring teams.
“Science Olympiad is all about problem solving and learning how to balance competing ideas,” said Eric Kaufmann, professor and director of undergraduate studies of mathematics and statistics and state director of the Arkansas Science Olympiad. “In Boomilever, students are asked to design a cantilever beam, which is as light as possible but holds as much weight as possible. They need to go beyond what they learn in the classroom.”
Participating schools include Annie Camp Junior High, Cabot Junior High School South, Central Arkansas Christian School, County Line High School, County Line Junior High, Forest Heights STEM Academy, Haas Hall Academy in Bentonville, Haas Hall Academy in Fayetteville, LISA Academy Chenal, LISA Academy North, LISA Academy North Middle School, LISA Academy West, LISA Academy West High School, Little Rock Central High, Little Rock Christian Academy, Nettleton High School, Nettleton Junior High School, Parkview Arts and Science Magnet High School in Little Rock, Sylvan Hills High School in Sherwood, and The Academies at Jonesboro.
UA Little Rock faculty assisted with this year’s events – from devising the competitions to running them. In addition, undergraduate and graduate students will assist.
Here’s just a few of the creative challenges the students will have waiting for them when they get to UA Little Rock:
Boomilever – Teams design and build a boomilever supporting a minimum load and to achieve the highest structural efficiency.
Circuit Lab – Participants complete tasks and answer questions about electricity and magnetism.
Codebusters – Teams will cryptanalyze (decode) encrypted messages using cryptanalysis techniques and show skill with advanced ciphers by encrypting or decrypting a message.
Density Lab – Participants compete in activities and answer questions about mass, density, number density, area density, concentration, pressure and buoyancy.
Designer Genes – Participants solve problems and analyze data or diagrams using their knowledge of the basic principles of genetics, molecular genetics and biotechnology.
Elastic Launched Glider – Prior to the tournament, teams design, construct, and test elastic launched gliders to achieve the maximum time aloft.
Fossils – Teams demonstrate their knowledge of ancient life by completing tasks related to fossil identification and classification.
Protein Modeling – Students use computer visualization and online resources to construct physical models of the CRISPR Cas9 protein that is being engineered to edit plant and animal cell genomes and answer questions about the chemistry of protein folding and the interaction of structure and function for model proteins.
Anatomy & Physiology – Students demonstrate understanding of the anatomy and physiology of the human body systems: cardiovascular, lymphatic and excretory.
Chemistry Lab – Teams complete tasks and answer questions about the science processes of chemistry focused in the areas of physical properties and acids and bases.
Disease Detectives – Participants will use investigative skills in the scientific study of disease, injury, health and disability in populations or groups of people.
Meteorology – This event emphasizes understanding of basic meteorological principles with emphasis on analysis and interpretation of meteorological data, graphs, charts and images.
Mystery Architecture – Teams will be given a bag of building materials and instructions for designing and building a device that can be tested.