Science Olympiad teams prepare for national competition

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BISMARCK, N.D. - It's a first for Bismarck's Legacy High School. Their Science Olympiad team is headed to the national competition for the first time in school history. The team won the high school division at the state event held two weekends ago on the NDSU campus.

Now, they're busy practicing and preparing for the national competition, which will be held at Cornell University in New York at the end of the month.

Science Olympiad competitions have been called academic track meets. Events cover everything from genetics, earth science, chemistry, anatomy, physics, geology and even technology. It is a hands-on learning experience that also teaches kids about teamwork.

The students at Legacy are now also spending a lot of time fundraising. Legacy Science Olympiad Coach Mike Walz says the estimated cost for the team to travel to New York is $25,000.

“This is a very expensive nationals for us, compared to years past for other Bismarck teams. Not only do we have kids full of energy and excitement and are dedicated but we have a strong parent group that is doing so much work. There are a lot of people supporting these kids in this endeavor,” said Walz.

“It’s going to be a blast. I know it’s Mr. Walz’s first time going to nationals as well and it’s just a new experience for everyone. I can’t wait to try my hardest at a really hard competition,” said Sean Joyce, team captain and junior at Legacy High School.

The Legacy students aren't the only Bismarck kids preparing for the national Science Olympiad competition. Wachter Middle School won the state title at the middle school level. Just like their counterparts at Legacy, they're busy practicing and fundraising, but for the students at Wachter, this is familiar territory.

These middle school girls are working to perfect their battery buggy car. They built this car from scratch.

“These are scope mounts. We designed them on the computer and then printed them on a 3D printer,” explained Wachter Middle School eighth grader and Science Olympiad team member Hayley Gienger. “It’s kind of crazy that I made all this stuff.”

The goal is to get the car from the start line to a spot determined by the judges. Bonus points for keeping the car between these two cans

“There is a lot of problem solving,” said Gienger.

At a nearby table, there’s some major problem solving happening, too.

“We are working on building a boomilever to test,” explained Marin Traynor, an eighth grader at Wachter Middle School and member of the school’s Science Olympiad team.

This is one of many practice boomilevers the girls have built, using only bass wood, balsa wood, and super glue.

“The goal of this event is to build the device that is the lightest and can hold the most weight, so it has the most efficiency,” said Traynor.

Now an eighth grader, Marin Traynor has been in Science Olympiad since she was in sixth grade. She’s competed at nationals every year.

“This is my medal from last year at nationals,” said Traynor, showing off her medal.

That award made history.

“My partner and I got first place in mystery architecture in the whole nation. We were the first people from North Dakota to walk the stage at nationals,” she said with a smile.

Marin hopes to bring home another first place medal this year.

“Our team is really strong in a lot of events and we’ve been working really hard so hopefully that will pay off at nationals,” Traynor said.

Their coaches hope so, too. It’s become a bit of a tradition for Wachter to send a team to nationals.

“This is our eighth national tournament. Five in a row, and eight out of 10 years,” said Wade Curren, one of the Science Olympiad coaches at Wachter.

“I am excited for nationals,” said Emily Curren, an eighth grader at Wachter Middle School and Science Olympiad team member. “This event is called Crimebusters. I get to identify powders, metals and different liquids.”

Of course, like any coach, he’s got his superstitions.

“This right here never gets shaved. The first time I shaved it we didn’t go so that’s been a rule now is that Mr. Curren can’t shave his beard,” admitted Curren.

But, win or lose, Mr. Curren says these kids are learning about more than just science.

“It’s learning how to work with your peers. There’s a lot of leadership skills these kids develop, communication skills, learning how to work with other people, problem solving,” said Curren.

Skills that will help these students beyond the science lab.

Both Wachter and Legacy teams head to New York on May 29. The competition will be held May 31 and June 1. Both teams have set up go fund me accounts. If you'd like to donate, just search Legacy or Wachter Science Olympiad on go fund me. You can also mail a check to each respective school, attention Science Olympiad.