The Kingston High School Science Olympiad team placed 18th overall out of 60 teams in the state tournament held at Le Moyne College in Syracuse on March 18-19. Some students also placed second in specific events.
Seniors Julie Chen and Luke Studt are the team’s president and vice-president respectively, representing Kingston High in a return to in-person Olympiad events after the COVID-19 pandemic forced last year’s events online.
“At the state competition, it was a lot more fun because we were obviously at a college,” Chen said. “It was bigger, it was somewhere we’d never really been, and we got to skip school. We got to stay overnight in a hotel. There was a lot of collaboration because we were studying, but also we were just having fun. And it was like our victory lap, because we weren’t really expecting to make it to nationals or anything. We were just content where we were at and could just kind of do the best that we could.”
The Science Olympiad is a STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) competition in which teams of 15 compete in 23 different events. In addition to Julie Chen and Studt, Kingston’s team includes Jerry Chen, Evan Dong, Peter Dong, Lila Freeman, Christopher Lekaj, Kitty Lin, Julianne Louie, Marla McCain, Isabella Ring, Katherine Toolan, Jackson Solfrian, Lisa Vargas-Hubner and Mary Zou.
Solfrian and Zou placed second in Rocks and Minerals at the state Olympiad, and Studt, Louie and Ring took second in Experimental Design.
“When we walked into the room, we were given three cups with three different liquids, one of them being water, another one being vinegar, and the last one was oil,” Studt said. “And we were given three sugar cubes and three stir sticks, and then we also were allowed to bring in a timer. Our topic we were given was solubilities.”
The trio came up with an experiment that based on the polarity of the substance, the sugar would dissolve easier.
Chen said the team nearly left the Olympiad before it was over.
“We hadn’t intended to stay for their awards ceremony, but I’m really glad that we did,” Chen said. “Because that moment where we had students being called up, that was a really good moment. Because it was like, oh, we’re not incomparable to these other teams. We’re at that level. That really proved it to ourselves that what we were doing here actually made sense and we were actually accomplishing something.”
Kingston’s Science Olympiad team advanced to the state tournament after placing fourth overall out of 31 teams in regional competition on Sunday, February 6 at John Jay High School in Hopewell Junction.
At the regionals, Jerry Chen and Peter Dong (Astronomy), Louie and Studt (Chemistry Lab), Julie Chen and Peter Dong (remote sensing), and Zou and Solfrian (Rocks and Minerals) all placed first. Julie Chen, Freeman and Zou (Codebusters); and Julie Chen and Freeman (It’s About Time) placed second. Studt and Tollan took third in WiFi Lab.
The team’s faculty advisers are Marika Uus-Janums and Grace Johnston, and Chen said their classroom is a regular meeting spot every Friday afternoon. They increased their study sessions two weeks before the state Olympiad. “We stayed every day with Ms. Johnson and Ms. Jans who were very generously letting us use their room till 5p.m.,” Chen said. “It was a lot for them too. It was sometimes 5 p.m., sometimes 6. One time we stayed until 8 just to get it done.”
The camaraderie borne of those long hours helped the team remain calm when a power outage the day before the regional Olympiad made them wonder whether there would be competition at all. “We had like no power and people were thinking, ‘Can I print out my Science Olympiad stuff?” Chen said. “Will I be okay?”
Chen and Studt don’t yet know where they’ll be going to college. Chen plans on majoring in biomedical engineering, while Studt wants to major in physics. In the meantime, the Science Olympiad team is still meeting, though they’re back to once a week on Friday afternoons. And though the competition is over, they still have work to do.
“We still have to clean up Ms. Johnson’s room,” Studt said. “A tornado kind of came through here last week. And after that, we’re just kind of going hang out and do sort of like team bonding things. And we’re going to have to recruit new members and appoint new roles for next year.”