The students of Westville Middle and High School have a knack for science. Placing within the top five at the Purdue University Northwest Regional Science Olympiad contest, the two teams are heading to the Science Olympiad State Tournament in Bloomington, Indiana on March 18.
The middle school Science Olympiad team was created three years ago, and each year they made it through regionals and onto state, improving their finish place each time. The high school team was created this year.
Samantha Joll is a Westville Middle School Science teacher and has been coaching the Science Olympiad teams since she first moved to Westville schools from Chesterton Middle School.
“I had previously coached for 10-plus years at CMS and am so passionate about Science Olympiad, so I began a team,” she said. “This year we started a high school team as the students who began this journey with me outgrew the middle school and are now high school students.”
At the regional match, the middle school took second and the high school took fourth. They earned the right to compete against 35 other Indiana schools at the upcoming state match.
“We have grown incredibly in these three years,” Joll said. “The first year we were 29th out of 30 at the state tournament, last year we were 12th out of 32, and this year we are hoping to break into the top 10! I'm very proud of the middle school team,” she explained.
Joll said it was surprising the high school advanced to the state meet in their rookie year, especially since the team only has eight students!
“Each team is allowed 15,” Joll said. “The "Great Eight" as we call them, did an almost impossible feat and won a bid to state even though we are undermanned. We are hoping this great group medals in their individual events, though a high team ranking due to their small size would surprise me.”
To prepare, the teams practice weekly after school for two hours and come in on Saturdays. Since there are 23 events, Joll said there are many topics to prepare for that are typically not covered in the school science class. The list of topics change based on the year’s current events.
Topics range from anatomy to mission possible (Rube Goldberg machines) to flying planes to forensics and astronomy. Events have included working on hovercrafts and windmill blades, physics tests, and laser challenges (optics), and build towers and calorimeters for food science and also learn about plate tectonics for dynamic planet.
Sounds like problems only Albert Einstein can tackle, yet the Westville teams have been prepping all year long for the big day.
“We compete three times a year. We attend one invitational tournament (practice tournament) and one regional tournament,” she said. “Northwest Indiana is the home of many of the big hitters in Science Olympiad. It is not unusual for the top five at state (the cream of the crop) to all be from here.”
The Olympiad meet is divided into A (elementary students), B (middle school students), and C (high school students) teams.
Joll said the only school around here with an A team is Hammond, but she hopes next year will be the first year for a La Porte County A team.
As the state tournament creeps closer and closer, the team is staying focused and relaxed, knowing they are ready to solve any problem thrown their way.
Stay tuned to find out how these science studs did!