When I hear “science competition,” I think of nerdy kids next to poster boards, explaining styrofoam experiments to nerdy judges.
When Bedford Middle School students hear it, they think of Science Olympiad. Which is pretty similar to the actual Olympic Games.
Instead of swimming, boxing, biathlon (and curling!) though, there are events like anatomy and physiology, hovercraft and towers.
Body tape and energy bars are replaced by duct tape and battery chargers.
But — just like the Summer and Winter Games — events are timed. Adrenaline runs high. There are big prizes for the winners.
Last month, BMS placed 1st and 3rd at the state competition in Farmington. The gold winners now represent Connecticut at the 34th annual Science Olympiad national tournament. It’s May 18-19, at Colorado State University.
That’s no small achievement. 15,000 schools participate across the country. Teams of up to 15 students compete in 23 events, covering science, technology, engineering and math.
Some require constructing a project ahead of time. Others involve on-the-spot skill-solving. Like athletes, “SciOly” teams train for hours each week.
Fortunately, Bedford is led by a coach who is John Wooden, Geno Auriemma and Pep Guardiola rolled into one.
During the day, Art Ellis — the first student at Princeton University to seek a combination degree in engineering and public school education — teaches design and engineering.
After school, his classroom transforms into the Science Olympiad workshop. Middle schoolers build, study, perform lab trials, make mistakes and hone their performances.
After a dinner break, he opens the room again. Students focus on different events.
On weekends he’s either at BMS, or in Glastonbury coaching his flyers for the SciOly “Wright Stuff” event.
Many of this year’s Olympians worked during school breaks — including last summer vacation. They’ve been inspired by Mr. Ellis, who teaches them exactly how competitions work.
Once the students understand how good their opponents are — and they’re very, very good — they’re hooked on beating them.
But there’s no trash talk or foul play. Bedford wins with grace. They congratulated the runners-up profusely. After all, Mr. Ellis reminded them, if the other team wasn’t their rivals, they’d likely be their good friends.
Mr. Ellis also coaches the Staples High School Science Olympiad team. Formed last year, they’ve already snagged a pair of 3rd-place finishes. Coleytown Middle School competed at the state meet this year too, and earned an individual medal.
There’s only one thing Mr. Ellis can’t do: create money out of thin air. The cost of sending 25 students and 5 advisers to Colorado is $35,000. Tax-deductible contributions can be sent to Bedford Middle School, 88 North Avenue, Westport, CT 06880 (put “Science Olympiad” in the memo line).
Congratulations to BMS Science Olympians Jackson Benner, Julia Berg, Tavan Bhatia, Aalok Bhattacharya, Kristina Chaney, Rhea Choudhury, Joshua Deitch, Tatiana Dragun, Hannah Even, Amy Ginzburg, Tanvi Gorre, Sharmila Green, Anja Gubitz, Finnbar Kiely, Lucy Livingstone, Emma Losonczy, Annabelle Luo, Colin Morgeson, Alexander Pirkl, Jeffrey Pogue, Ishan Prasad, Naomi Rosen, Zachary Rybchin, Samira Saad, Kaitlyn Seo, Tegh Singh, Clara Smith, Mallika Subramanian, Maxwell Tanksley, Whitman Teplica and Jy Xu, plus Mr. Elllis’ fellow coaches Kathryn Nicholas and Dr. Daniel Cortright.
Good luck going for another gold. And have fun along the way!
(Hat tip: Danielle Teplica)