Tigers host Science Olympiad
The Northwestern Lehigh High School gym was a hub of activity but there was no wrestling mat or basketball in sight.
Instead, clusters of teenagers from 25 different schools were busy conferring, calculating and hoping like crazy that their work would yield wins in the Tiger Invitational Science Olympiad Competition.
In one corner, a group of some 30 Northwestern students were cheering on Ryan Terrell and Michael Boushell as they manipulated a robotic arm.
“This is the 40th iteration of the robot arm,” said Terrell. “It’s been a continuous process.”
“It’s new for me,” Boushell added. “This is the first time I’m controlling it.”
“We bought servo motors for the joints on a robotics website but we’ve been giving Plaza Hardware a lot of business,” Terrell said. “They know a lot about nuts and bolts.”
The two-man team had two shots on manipulating their robot arm to pick up pennies and drop them onto a target taped to the gym floor.
“Each team gets two practices and two actual runs,” Terrell explained. “It’s like synchronized swimming.”
At the Olympiad, students could compete in 23 events, some written, others performance based.
These included anatomy, ecology, hovercraft and wind power.
Violet Shane was scheduled to participate in four events — astronomy, invasive species, rocks and minerals, and write-it do-it — but her favorite was the last one.
“I like writing a lot and being able to apply it in a scientific way is kind of cool,” she said.
As with Shane, Adriana Walp signed up for four events but except for astronomy, her events were different.
She also opted for hydrogeology, dynamic planet and game on.
“For game on, they give us a topic and a rubric to follow,” she said.
“They give us a theme on the spot so we don’t have a clue going in.
“We have to code an entire game using a program called Scratch.”
Both Sharon Van Ommeren and Natalie Masetti chose two events each but both participated in towers.
“You make a tower out of wood but it’s judged on how much it can hold and how light it is,” Van Ommeren explained. “I enjoy being able to perfect something and making it the best it can be.”
Masetti said she was most drawn to dynamic planets because of her interest in earth and space.
“We answer various questions about tectonics and the Earth,” she said.
This was teacher David Moyer’s ninth year in spearheading the event and serving as adviser to the Science Olympiad teams.
After years of teaching chemistry and physics in the high school, Moyer will be retiring.
Moyer said hosting the invitational this year was “bittersweet.
“They gave me a standing ovation after Sarah Kromer gave a short speech about me,” Moyer said.
But even in retirement, Moyer will remain active. “I will be co-state director for the Pennsylvania Science Olympiad and will continue to help the Tiger team as much as I can without conflict of interest,” he said.
The invitational gives students opportunities they would not otherwise have in traditional science classrooms.
The Olympiad also provides students with the chance to meet and compete with like-minded people their age, testing their skills and making valuable human connections.
In addition to Northwestern, 24 schools sent teams to the daylong event.
High schools included Kutztown, Whitehall, Parkland and Pleasant Valley but schools from Delaware, New York and New Jersey also attended, fielding 36 teams.
“We went to Islip, Long Island, N.Y.; Conestoga High School in Berwyn; MIT in Cambridge, Mass.; and Manheim Central High School [where] we took first,” Moyer said. “We will be going to North Pocono, Central Eastern Regionals and States.”