Buccaneers compete in Science Olympiad nationals | Education

GRAND HAVEN TOWNSHIP — The Buccaneers’ high school Science Olympiad team competed in the national competition Saturday.

The annual competition was scheduled to be held in California, but due to concerns regarding COVID-19, it was instead held virtually. The team gathered at the high school Saturday morning and had video calls with judges throughout the day for each competition.

And while the team celebrated many successes Saturday, they’ll have to wait a while to learn how they finished overall — the final results and awards won’t be handed out until Wednesday.

The team competed in events such as bridge building, where they built a wooden structure weighing just a quarter of an ounce. The lightweight structure built by student Jagger Schaendorf was able to hold a 32-pound bucket.

Another event was gravity vehicle, a team event made up of Justin Hancock and Hannah Black. The pair had to construct a vehicle, release it down a ramp, and make sure it stopped as close to a specific spot as possible. They constructed the vehicle and ramp beforehand but were not given the exact measurements for where the car would need to stop until the moment of the competition.

Black said this can be a challenge because “sometimes (the vehicle) is not consistent.” She also joked about it seeming to have a mind of its own, despite all of the calibrating the students had put into being able to control it.

Despite the car sometimes being inconsistent, the pair felt great about how they did. They scored a 2.6, the best score for this event being 0. Black said this was better than they had ever done before and predicted they might even land a top 10 spot.

Students also competed in events that were more like taking a test, Carl Jaeger and Max Tran competed in ornithology. Ornithology is the scientific study of birds. Jaegar explained that typically the event would be in person, so they would have physical items to identify such as feathers, eggs, or sometimes even bird skulls. Jaegar and Tran both agreed it was a bit more challenging doing the event virtually, since they instead had to identify these items through pictures.

The whole team seemed to agree that holding the event virtually brought some challenges. One of the team’s coaches, Bob Monetza, noted that not being in person with an audience can have effect morale.

“Having people watching helps the students with enthusiasm” and helps with team building, he said.

There was also an acknowledgment that having the event could virtually have advantages. Hannah Black’s mother Leah Black reflected that it is somewhat of a disappointment having the event virtually, but she also was able to find a bright side.

“There’s a comfort being at their own school,” she said.

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