Science team readies for state finals

Published 6:39 am Sunday, February 17, 2008

By Staff
WHS team placed first in regionals
Special to the Daily News
Anyone who would like to challenge their thinking and reasoning skills should spend an hour or two interviewing the Science Olympiad participants at Washington High School.
The team won first place in the Greenville regional Science Olympiad in January — the 16th time the school has done so in 17 years. The group is now preparing for the state finals at N.C. State University on April 4-5.
They prepare four-inch thick notebooks on their specialties, and build musical instruments, electric cars and intricate Rube Goldberg-like contraptions to the required specifications. They spend hours during and after school preparing for the challenges that await at state.
The state contest will neither have the same events as the regional nor the same events as last year. The students have to be prepared for anything the state may throw at them within the confines of the categories.
There will be 18 students on the team covering 25 events,
The categories are broad and often eccentric. Fermi Questions requires “a fast rough estimate of a quantity which is either difficult or impossible to measure directly. For example … ‘How many drops of water are there in Lake Erie?’
Cobb is thinking about being an engineer.
He and partner Mark Hamblin demonstrated Bottle Blast on a windy day in the schoolyard. “It wasn’t bad,” said Hamblin. “The bottle blasted off, the stages separated and the parachute, with its egg passenger, deployed.”
Lee Godley, whose specialty is the Boomilever, a wooden cantilever that proves its structural efficiency in competition by holding the greatest weight, says, “This is my last year; I decided to go again. I won two first place medals in the regional competition — I’m rejuvenated.”
Freshman Jeff Swanner says, “My brothers did it. I’m doing it is because you can get a scholarship.” Swanner specializes in the Fermi Questions.
Haley Stowe barely looks up from the huge notebook on herpetology that she has compiled as a study aid. She says she and her partner in the category Paul Foxworth, “have to know the animals’ classification all the way from kingdom to genus … and their habitats, and facts about reptiles’ and amphibians’ structure.”
Women are outnumbered in this endeavor more than four-to-one at Washington High School.
Thomas Alligood, a senior bound for N.C. State, will participate in an engineering event. One of two possible tasks will be assigned at the finals, so they have to be prepared for both. He says he wants to be an engineering student in mechanical engineering.
Swann says Alligood is “as good as anyone in building stuff as we’ve ever had in the 17 years we’ve done this.”
In the regionals Alligood was first in electric vehicles and junkyard challenge and third in physics.
Keenan O’Brien, Alligood’s partner, who specializes in textile engineering, is a finalist for a scholarship at N.C. State.
Keenan O’Brien was first in the state in Wright Stuff last year and partners Michael Cobb and James Andrews were state champs in Rocks and Minerals.”
Molly Edwards will also participate in the National Ocean Sciences Bowl later this month.
Edwards says she wants to be a journalist and major in marketing.
Clay Campbell is another science teacher and coach for the Olympians. His enthusiasm, like that of all involved, is infectious. His classroom, like Swann’s, is full of contest projects. Against one wall leans a full-size stand-up bass, built by James Andrews. Andrews took first place in Circuit Lab and Astronomy and Rocks and second in Sounds of Music.
Sophomore Ethan Call, who was first in Electric Vehicle in the regionals, is working on a flying bird — a wooden model with flapping wings. He wants to be a pilot and a naval architect.
Juniors Graham Martin (Forensics, Chemistry Lab, Oceanography, Circuit Lab) and Daniel Gurganus (Ecology, Oceanography, Remote Sensing) are “great test-takers,” says Swann. Test-takers benefit the team because questions are thrown at the participants within every category.
Ted Hodges, who won regional firsts in Microbes, Cell Biology and Chemistry Lab, will compete in those categories at the state competition, in addition to Experimental Design.
Zack Hart (Forensics, Health Science and Foods) wants to be a doctor.