Sunday, April 7, 2013

Students vie for top spots in science competitions by Elizabeth Richards

Spring brings many opportunities for science competition, and students at Windham High School are ready for the challenge.  A team of sophomores recently competed at the Science Bowl, and other students are gearing up for additional upcoming events.

Jackson Giampino, Hawar Haddadi, Daniel Hanson, and Dexter Herald represented WHS at the Science Bowl, an annual Jeopardy-style competition, held at the University of Southern Maine in Gorham on March 2.  Lisa McLellan, a chemistry teacher at WHS and the team’s coach, said that while the Science Bowl is an annual event, this was Windham’s first year competing.  She learned of the event just a couple of months prior, mentioned it in a large chemistry class to gauge student interest, and the team emerged.  

While many teams had been preparing all year for the competition, the students from Windham had only a month.  “This year, I told them that their goal was to have fun, to answer questions and not be afraid to get things wrong,” McLellan said.  

At the competition, the team put in a valiant effort, nearly winning their first round, winning their second, and coming very close again in two other rounds.  While they also had a couple rounds that weren’t close, Windham was the only school with sophomores on their team.  “The rest of the teams were either all seniors or mostly seniors with a junior here or there.  These kids were taking on students who had much more experience in science and math, and did really well,” McLellan said.    

Two other science events are also ahead.  This week, 30 students will participate in the American Chemical Society Chemistry Olympiad.  The first round, a written exam, was taken at WHS on March 28.   The top ten students in the state will qualify for the national competition, though only two students per school are allowed to compete at that level.  WHS has competed in this event for seven years, and has had at least two students, sometimes more, qualify each year.  McLellan was told that Windham is the only school who has had two students eligible to compete every year.  She is hopeful that the trend will continue and Windham will have two students eligible for next month’s national competition.

Finally, 30 students will participate in two teams at the Science Olympiad at USM in Gorham on Saturday, April 6th.  McLellan and fellow coach Dan Wirtz have been working with students all year to prepare for this event.  There are approximately 20 events including various build events, lab events and written exams.  Each student participates in three or four events over the course of the day.  Each year, the Windham team brings some medals home, and this year they are hoping to score in the state’s top three, a goal they missed by a small margin last year, McLellan said.  

It takes a dedicated student to compete in this type of event.  They have spent many hours outside of class time in preparation. “These kinds of competitions really get kids excited about trying to learn new things,” said McLellan.

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