Clinton Middle and Clinton High Win State Science Olympiad at The Citadel

April 11, 2023

Saturday, April 1, is usually reserved for harmless pranks and practical jokes; however, on the first Saturday of April and the first day of Spring Break, two Clinton teams had little time or energy for foolishness as the Teams punched their respective tickets to the National Science Olympiad Tournament to be held May 19-20 at Wichita State University in Kansas.

Covid squashed the competition in 2020, and the National competitions in 2021 and 2022 were held virtually. This year, things are returning to normal. Clinton Middle (formerly Bell Street) has won the State nineteen times in the last twenty-one years; Clinton High School has won the State twelve of the last fifteen years.

Science Olympiad (SO) competitions are like academic track meets, consisting of 23 team events in each division (Division B is middle school; Division C is high school). Each year, some events are rotated to reflect the ever-changing nature of genetics, earth science, chemistry, anatomy, physics, geology, mechanical engineering, and technology. Combining events from all disciplines, Science Olympiad encourages a broad cross-section of students to get involved. Emphasis is placed on active, hands-on group participation. Through Science Olympiad, students, teachers, parents, principals, and business leaders bond and work toward a shared goal.

Teamwork is a required skill in most scientific careers today, and Science Olympiad encourages group learning by designing events that forge alliances. In Elevated Bridge, an engineering whiz and a kid from a wood shop can become gold medalists. Similarly, a talented builder and a student with a good science vocabulary can excel in Write It Do It, one of the Science Olympiad’s most popular events.

The culmination of nearly 300 Regional and State tournaments (and about 165 practice Invitationals!) is the Science Olympiad National Tournament, held at a different university each year. This rotating system allows students to visit new parts of the country and tour colleges they might consider for their undergraduate studies. It provides a memorable experience that lasts a lifetime.

Arohi Patel, a seventh grader on the CMS team, states, “I like Science Olympiad because of the challenges and new things I can learn from it. I use some of the things I have learned from SO in school, but some things [I [just like to learn] in general.”

Keegan Fortman, an eleventh grader on the CHS team, added. “I do SO because I love the feeling of being a team. SO does that perfectly to the point where it feels like family. I have learned many life skills from SO and a lot of basics [in many areas of science] I otherwise would not have learned.”

Matthew King, a ninth grader on the CMS team (Note: ninth graders can choose to be part of either the middle or high school team, provided they competed as eighth graders), noted, “I like SO because of the people I get to do it with. I get to make new friends while spending time with my current ones. I also enjoy the opportunities we are given…like traveling the country to Nationals. Science Olympiad is where everyone feels comfortable with each other and feels like a family.”

Finally, Shane Nelson, a senior on the CHS team, concluded, “As a senior, it means a lot to see this team pull through one more time. Witnessing highs and lows across the years has shown me that our remarkable consistency is owed to the individual talent of our coaches and students and, more importantly, to the dedication and love we all have for this team. Science Olympiad has defined my growth as a student and a person over the past seven years, and I will forever remember the memories I have made, friends I have found, and things I have learned.”

Clinton High School defeated fourteen other high school teams to claim the crown. Clinton High School won gold medals in Astronomy, Bridge Building, Chemistry Lab, Dynamic Planet (Earth’s Fresh Waters), Environmental Chemistry, Forestry, Remote Sensing, Scrambler (a homemade device to carry an egg as a bumper with the result to get as close as possible to a barrier as fast as you can with an unknown distance and not break the egg), and Wifi Lab. The team also earned silver and bronze medals in nine other events.

Clinton Middle School defeated all its competitors and earned gold, silver, or bronze medals in all events.

Head Coach Terri O’Shields summed things up by saying, “This was a challenging year for lots of reasons. When Covid disrupted the program (no competition in 2020 and only virtual national competitions in 2021 and 2022), many students had never actually competed in a national competition.  We had to start from scratch.”

Further, Coach O’Shields said, “Seniors in this program who had competed since sixth grade only had the chance to attend three national competitions. That’s how disruptive this pandemic was; however, the program’s success can be attributed to the persistence and dedication of the students and the many community coaches who share their time and talents. Students are aware they are part of something bigger than themselves. Science Olympiad is part of the culture of Clinton. Michael Mack brought Science Olympiad to Clinton in 1986. Since then, students who love science, technology, engineering, and math have had an outlet to pursue interests well beyond the scope of any traditional science or math curriculum.”

And the winning continues, well done, teams! District 56 is very proud of you.