Budding young scientists from throughout the region are gearing up for the 26th Annual Stanislaus County Regional Science Olympiad set for Saturday, March 3 at Modesto Junior College, 435 College Ave., Modesto. The event begins at 8:30 a.m. and will end with an awards ceremony at 4 p.m. inside the gym.
More than 550 students representing area junior and senior high schools, including Oakdale, will participate in the daylong event. The public is invited to attend. Admission and parking are free.
Oakdale High School science teachers Cameron Nickerson and Phil Herrick are again coaching the OHS Science Olympiad team. Oakdale High School is entering two teams this year at the Regional Science Olympiad – a full team of 15 members (Gold Team) and a partial team of eight members (Red Team).
In both 2010 and 2011, OHS placed first in the division with its Gold team and brought home the big trophy. In 2009, OHS was third at the regional competition. Each of those three years, OHS advanced to the Northern California State Competition.
Nickerson noted that the team has had a few challenges this year. He said that the team has lost many of its seasoned, dedicated players and the birth of one of his children took place during a time when the team was to be doing serious practice.
“Our team is very green, five Gold team members have never been on a high school Science Olympiad team before, and our late start meant we had a lot of catching up to do,” Nickerson said.
He added that he’s still expecting the team to do well but believes it will be a tough competition. He reported that most of the students have thrown themselves into the work, but there are also other commitments pulling them in other directions as well – sports teams, Academic Decathlon, and home life.
The second team has always been a partial team and it has not been a serious contender for high placement, but the Red team members have generally come away with medals, even beating the Gold team in some events.
Oakdale Junior High School science teacher Mike Ruhland is coaching the OJHS team this year.
“We will continue to prepare after school this week, especially on Tuesday and Thursday, our regular preparation days,” Ruhland said.
OJHS is also sending two teams to compete this year. Ruhland reported that he has been working with about 20 students as they prepare to compete in several of the 23 different events.
“Students pair-up to prepare for several events so that the team can cover as many of the 23 events as possible,” he said. “Students have been preparing by studying for the written test events such as Disease Detective, Food Science, or Reach for the Stars. Students are also practicing and building for the performance testing events like Tower, Storm the Castle, Mousetrap Vehicle, and Write It, Do it.”
He added that some events combine written and performance tests such as Optics, Rocks and Minerals, and Keep the Heat.
Parents have been very supportive and helpful and some also volunteer to help run the events on Saturday.
The following junior high/middle schools are participating in Division B: Oakdale, Blaker-Kinser, Connecting Waters, Denair, Hart-Ransom, Hart-Ransom Charter, Hickman Charter, Our Lady of Fatima, Riverbank Language Academy, Savage, St. Stanislaus, Ustach and Vanguard Academy.
The following high schools are participating in Division C: Oakdale, Beyer, Central Catholic, Central Valley, Ceres, Connecting Waters, Denair, Downey, Enochs, Gregori, Modesto Christian, and Modesto.
The top four teams in Division B and Division C advance to the Northern California (Nor Cal) Science Olympiad State Finals. This year’s state Science Olympiad will be hosted by the Tulare Region and is scheduled for Saturday, April 14 at College of the Sequoias in Visalia.