When the Columbia Science Olympiad team returned from the 2019 National Tournament held at Cornell University on June 1, five team members were wearing Gold Medals, and three of the National Champions were awarded $10,000/year in scholarships.
Led by their Executive Council, Kelly Nagel, Sam Koblensky and Ryan Doyle, the team set several new team records. The team earned a record number of National Championships (2), record number of top 5 finishes (7), and had their best overall team finish ever! There are close to 8,000 high school Science Olympiad teams in the nation. Columbia placed 11th out of the 61 competing teams, each of which are state champions representing states from around the United States and Japan.
Over the four days of the National Championship, the team attended lectures by Cornell professors, a STEM expo and a screening of the award winning movie, “Float” about engineering incredibly light planes. They met and socialized with students from around the country at an Ice Cream Social and Swap meet, and played a round of ultimate frisbee against their “sister team” from Mira Loma, California. The Opening Ceremonies were a highlight with a parade of states where students showed off their home state pride and the keynote speaker, Grant Imahara of “MythBusters” fame. And they attended the formal Awards Ceremony to culminate the weekend.
Congratulations to the team on an amazing finish to an incredible year! Coaches Darleen Morgan, Jeff Amos and Diana Prout are more than proud of the work the team accomplished over their daily 3-hour practices and thrilled that the students were recognized at the tournament.
National Champions: Sydney Sill, Nina Tedeschi and Ekansh Agrawal earned gold medals in the “Protein Modelling” event with a pre-build model that the National judges called, “Nearly Perfect!” The trio had to manipulate the Jmol software that is generally used by post-graduate students, build a model of the simulated section of the protein, and take an exam on the CAS 9 Crisper Protein all at the same time. Teamwork was key!! The trio won scholarships of $10,000/year from the sponsors of the event, Milwaukee School of Engineering.
National Champions: George Culver and Clara Xin earned gold medals for their expertise in the “Water Quality” event. They had to build and use a salinometer to determine the percent of salt in a water sample during the lab portion of the event, identify macroinvertebrates and use their numbers to determine pond health, and complete an exam on all facets of water quality in freshwater systems.
Silver Medalists: Kate Burns and Nina Tedeschi earned 2nd place honors in the Dynamic Planet event. The topic for this year was glaciers. The duo had to devour and learn college level material from textbooks and the internet. Senior Kate Burns was excited when a major portion of the exam was on describing how the Finger Lakes were formed from glaciers. She was heard to exclaim, “That was a really fun test!”
Bronze Medalists: Captain Sam Koblensky and Lindsey Conboy earned 3rd place honors in the “Sound of Music” event. They built a marimba that earned perfect scores for tone, volume and tuning in every event this year! They also had to take an exam on all facets of music from its history, theory and especially the physics behind it.
Bronze Medalists: Kate Burns and Nina Tedeschi also earned 3rd place honors in the “Geo-Mapping” event. This dynamic duo was mentored by CHS alumnus Parth Bhide. Mr. Bhide had competed in the event in 2014 and gave the girls a head start on the competition. In this event, the duo had to learn to analyze geologic data and rock patterns. The event requires the student to analyze, diagram and interpret material in an extremely abstract, 3D manner.
5th Place: Noelle Maloney and Ekansh Agrawal placed 5th in the nation in the “Wright Stuff” event. They built a balsa and tissue paper plane that is propelled by a rubber band motor. They actually built at least four different planes during the season, each requiring 10 hours to build. At Nationals their plane flew for an amazing 3 minutes and 33 seconds. It slowly climbed to the 40-foot ceiling of the Cornell gym making slow circles at the top. Dave Ziegler who designs and prepares the kits most of the teams build and modify was cheering the duo on from the sidelines. He was impressed with their skill at reading the air currents in the gym and ability to fly just under the rafters and debris on the ceiling.
5th Place: Sydney Sill and George Culver earned 5th place honors in the “Designer Genes” event. The duo was tested on college level material dealing with DNA, RNA, Proteins and gene expression. Ms. Sill attributed part of their success to Columbia High School Biology teacher Dottie Masiello. Not only did Mrs. Masiello give the duo the background they needed in the material, she taught them how to “guess & go,” making decisions quickly and efficiently, enabling them to actually finish the exam when many other teams left huge portions blank due to lack of time.
Additional Exemplary Accomplishments
Mousetrap Vehicle: Ryan Doyle and Nidhi Shaw were 1 of only 2 teams who were able to actually hit the Cup Target point with their MouseTrap vehicle. The duo, neither of whom had ever built this type of device before, built and rebuilt their vehicle six times in order to achieve such accuracy.
Boomilever: Captain Kelly Nagel and Ryan Allen built and tested a record 20 boomilevers this year. The duo maxed out at an efficiency of 1480, that is a 7.9 gram boomilever that can support 26 lbs.
Mission Possible: Owen Ball and George Culver built a Rube-Goldberg device that was so intricate and detailed the National Event Supervisor asked to take pictures of it so he could use them in Coaches workshops around the country as a teaching tool. Owen was also interviewed about his electronic “Detector” after the trial event he built his device for in less than two weeks!
Fossils: Justine Fournier and Ryan Doyle attended a lecture by Dr. Robert Ross on a complete Mastodon skeleton that was found in Upstate New York. They also attended a backstage tour of the Museum of Earth in Ithaca with Earth Science teacher Mrs. Gavlik. The trio wanted to spend several more hours exploring the museum, but had to return to campus for Opening Ceremonies.