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Academy, Home Schoolers Claim State Science Olympiad Crowns

Science Olympiad By Thomas Guengerich

SOCORRO, N.M., Feb. 25, 2009 – The Albuquerque Academy high school “intelletes” won their seventh straight state Science Olympiad title Saturday at New Mexico Tech, but their middle school compatriots could not repeat as champs.

Physics professor Dr. Ken Eack goes over the rules for The Wright Stuff flying competition with Luis Hernandez and Vanessa Flores of Red Mountain Middle School in Deming. Eack was one of more than 60 Tech professors and students who volunteered to coordinate and run the competitions.

“The Science Olympiad brings together the brightest youngsters in the state for a unique event,” event director Tony Ortiz said. “It’s an academic event, but it’s still a competition. These kids will feel the pressure to perform their best. It’s like a Battle of the Brains.”

More than 60 New Mexico Tech faculty, researchers and students volunteer all day as judges, coordinators and event assistants. Many of them have been involved with Science Olympiad for more than 15 years.

The Public Information Office hosted a pizza party, movie and game night Friday for the teams that arrived in Socorro early. While they ate, students were treated to a sneak preview of the soon-to-be-broadcast “Man Vs. Cartoon” reality show, which was filmed at New Mexico Tech.

On Saturday, the teams start arriving on campus as early as 6 a.m., with each school staking out its home territory in classrooms, conference rooms and lounges. Nearly every student competes in at least three competitions, so the campus is abuzz with activity and movement all day long. New Mexico Tech faculty, researchers and students serve as exam proctors, testing volunteers and judges.

The written test competitions take place in various classrooms in nearly every building, while the engineering competitions take place in the gyms, a racquetball court Macey Center stage, Workman 101 and on the athletic field.

The Albuquerque Area Home School team won the middle school competition by 21 points over Academy. The perennial powerhouses earned another trip to the national Science Olympiad at Augusta State College in Georgia in May.

For the second straight year, La Cueva High School narrowly missed unseating the champions. Academy only won three events, but amassed 400 points on the strength of 17 top three team out of 23 events. La Cueva registered 373 points with 11 top three teams. The Albuquerque Area Home Schoolers were third with 358 points.

In the middle school division, the Albuquerque Area Home Schoolers out-pointed Academy 383-362. Sidney Gutierrez Middle School of Roswell was third with 294 points.

Division C (High School) Results

1. Albuquerque Academy 400
2. La Cueva High School 373
3. Albuquerque Area Home Schoolers 358
4. Cloudcroft High School 341
5. Socorro High School 310
6. Lovington High School 265
7. Sandia High School 252
8. New Mexico Military Institute 247
9. United World College USA 229
10. Piedra Vista High School 211

Division B (Middle School) Results

1. Albuquerque Area Home Schoolers 383
2. Albuquerque Academy 362
3. Sidney Gutierrez M.S. (Roswell) 294
4. Hoover Middle School (ABQ) 291
5. Cloudcroft Middle School 277
6. Cottonwood Valley Charter (Socorro) 253
7. Annunciation Middle School (ABQ) 246
8. Los Lunas Middle School 238
9. Madison Middle School (ABQ) 236
10. Taylor Middle School (Lovington) 223

Science Olympiad

Robert Abernathy (front) and Kerry Harvey inspect the Scrambler as Lovington students Nathaniel De La Cruz and David Robles look on. Abernathy is a research engineer at the Energetic Materials Research and Testing Center. Harvey is a senior chemical engineering major.

The Albuquerque Home Schoolers won six events, with Cloudcroft High School taking four gold medals. In the middle school division, the Home Schoolers won eight events and Albuquerque Academy won five gold medals.

The Science Olympiad office also awarded 17 scholarships to New Mexico Tech. The winners were all seniors who have already enrolled at Tech. They included five students from Cloudcroft, four from Albuquerque Academy and two each from La Cueva, Hobbs, Socorro and home schoolers.

The Socorro recipients are Ellen Aster and Sohaib Soliman, both the children of New Mexico Tech professors.

The national Science Olympiad program includes intellectual, creative and engineering competitions in a wide range of disciplines – from physics, chemistry, geology and biology to robotics, bridge building, rocket launching and “junk yard challenge.”

More than 750 student “intelletes” from 25 middle schools and 23 high schools from every corner of the state participated. Each team included up to 15 students, with most competitions pitting two students from each school. The winning team earned 20 points; second place 19 points, down to the 20th place team, which got one point.

Science Olympiad is a nationwide program that uses tournament competition as a means to challenge and motivate science students in their academic pursuits. The competition requires teamwork, cooperation, planning, and months of practice, providing students with a working knowledge of facts, concepts, and processes, as well as helping them develop thinking skills through practical applications of science and engineering.

Most teams sport team colors. Hoover Middle School of Albuquerque perhaps had the most fitting uniform – personalized lab coats.

The spirit awards were swept by the posse of Lovington students, parents and teachers. Lovington High finished sixth overall and won two events. The 23 event coordinators honored the Wildcat contingent for best reflecting the spirit of competition, sportsmanship and pride. The Lovington Sixth-Grade Academy won the spirit award for the middle school division.

Larger schools tend to dominate the competition, but several small schools showed off their brain power. In the high school division, Cloudcroft High School finished fourth with 341 points. The small school in the Sacramento mountains claimed four victories and five more top three finishes. Cloudcroft Middle School was fifth.

Two Class 3A schools, Socorro and Lovington were fifth and sixth, respectively. Socorro was the last team other than Academy to win the state competition – in 2002.

– NMT –