Fifteen students at Mira Loma High School in Arden Arcade are closing the school year with a most notable accomplishment: They bested national competitors in the 2016 Science Olympiad held last weekend in Wisconsin.
On Thursday, teachers Mark Porter and Scott Martinez said the mix of sophomores, juniors and seniors were the first from Northern California to win the prestigious contest.
The teachers, who shared coaching responsibilities with teacher Rochelle Jacks, described a daylong event Saturday in which team members worked in groups of two or three and tackled hour-long events in biology, astronomy, physics, chemistry, epidemiology, meteorology, coding and engineering.
There were 23 events total, many running simultaneously, from 7 a.m. to 4 p.m. That scheduling meant team members had to be prepared to compete in multiple subjects, said Martinez. “They’re incredible kids,” he said.
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Porter said one team member, David Yang, built devices for several events.
One device had to launch a ball that could hit targets at different distances for the air trajectory event. His balsa wood and rubber band airplane had to stay in the air the longest for the “Wright Stuff.” And his balsa wood bridge had to be as light as possible but hold the maximum amount of weight, Porter said.
Some team members spent years pursuing Olympiad-level knowledge. San Juan Unified’s Winston Churchill finished second in the middle school category, just behind Daniel Wright Junior High School in Lincolnshire, Ill. It was the second such showing for Churchill in the last five years.
“A lot of their students come to Mira Loma” and want to continue on the team, Porter said. “We have some who were sixth graders at Churchill, and now they’re seniors with us.” Other students joined the team in their senior year, he said.
Each year, about 75 to 100 students try out for the Olympiad team, but only 15 make it. The Mira Loma team received medals in 12 of the 23 events and won with the best overall score. The high school finished ahead of second-place winner, Harriton High School of Rosemont, Pa.
The Olympiad is one of the country’s most prestigious science, technology, engineering and math competitions, bringing together 120 winning middle school and high school teams from competitions held at the state level.
About 3,000 high school and middle school competitors from 49 states converged on the University of Wisconsin-Stout in Menomonie for the annual competition.
Nearly $900,000 in prizes and scholarships were awarded.