Science Olympiad Hurdles Distance Learning Roadblocks

Long time Science Olympiad Coaches Susan Boomer (left) and Julie Cox (right) are leading the team virtually again this year.

Long time Science Olympiad Coaches Susan Boomer (left) and Julie Cox (right) are leading the team virtually again this year.

Longfellow’s Science Olympiad (SO) team has had to adapt to some big changes this year as the competition moved online.

Traditionally, Science Olympiad is a science competition held once a year with rotating events.  Events include genetics, earth science, chemistry, physics, anatomy, and more. Each year, there are nearly 300 regional and state tournaments held across the country at different universities. The tournaments provide an opportunity to network with other science-minded students and also allow students to tour colleges, which they might consider for their undergraduate studies. It is a memorable experience for those involved.

Last year, there were more than 7,800 secondary schools that participated, with 120 going all the way to the National event.  Over 2,000 students attended.  Due to coronavirus, though, these in-person tournaments have been canceled. Not only that, but the Longfellow SO team can’t even meet in person to practice.

Shop teacher, Ms. Boomer, is once again coaching the team, which meets virtually after school on Wednesdays.  Boomer explained that the events will all be online this year.  Former SO students from California have created a system they call Scilympiad, which attempts to match the online tournament format.

While many of the events involve tests, which are easily replicated online, others required building things on the spot.  Some of those will become design events where students use programs such as Sketchup and SkyCiv.

“These are planning/CAD programs where the goal is to design and draw virtually the model they think will be most efficient,” said Boomer.

Some students will still get the opportunity to build things with their hands, though.

“There are some building events that will rely on the student’s mentor to film the actual event (individually, of course) that are then uploaded to the Scilympiad site,” Boomer explained.

The Scilympiad system also builds in some checks to keep the students honest, including the ability to track the time spent on a test and whether or not they pull up another site.

“As with life, we all have to rely on our desire to be an honest, upstanding member of society. We talk at length about honesty and Longfellow’s honor code and rely on the students to make the right decision,” Ms. Boomer said. As an organization, she added, “SO relies on the integrity of the student to maintain a fair and level playing field.”

With lots of new changes added to the Science Olympiad this year, things might seem confusing and difficult. Still, the Science Olympiad team is working its hardest to bring home its 8th state championship in a row (12th overall).

If school resumes, they hope to renew their daily after school meetings, but for now, Ms. Boomer’s best advice is, “Work together as a team. Collaboration is key. Study hard.”