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March Madness with a twist of science

March 07, 2012

Judy Holmes
(315) 443-8085

March Madness begins early for more than 300 Central New York middle school students competing in the 2012 Mid-State regional Science Olympiad on Saturday, March 10, at Syracuse University, beginning at 8:15 a.m. in the Life Sciences Complex. The departments of chemistry and biology in SU’s College of Arts and Sciences are hosting the event.

olympiadTeams of up to 15 students will test their scientific prowess in 25 hands-on events covering multiple areas of science, engineering and technology, including anatomy and physiology, astronomy, earth sciences, food science, forensic science, forestry, meteorology, microbiology, optics and water resources. Additionally, six special events provide the student teams with opportunities to showcase their scientific creativity by building aquifers, bottle rockets, catapults or mousetrap vehicles, designing towers or creating chain-reaction Rube Goldberg devices.

“The departments of chemistry and biology are proud to welcome and support the Science Olympiad,” says Karin Ruhlandt, professor and chair of the Department of Chemistry. “It will be exciting to see these junior scientists converge on campus for the competition.” This is the first time SU has hosted a regional Science Olympiad tournament.

The top four teams will go on to compete in April at the New York State Science Olympiad at the State University of New York in Ulster. Their ultimate goal is to be among the 120 final teams to compete in May at the 2012 National Science Olympiad Tournament at the University of Central Florida in Orlando.

“We are very excited to have SU hosting our regional tournament,” says SU alumna Wendy Davis ’94, G’08, regional coordinator for the Mid-State Science Olympiad B Division. “The students involved in Science Olympiad spend every day after school practicing for these events with as much intensity and commitment as student athletes.” Davis earned a bachelor’s degree in chemistry from The College of Arts and Sciences and a master’s degree in science education from the School of Education.

“The young students participating in the Science Olympiad are the future of science in our country,” says Ramesh Rania, professor and chair of the Department of Biology. “We are very excited to see all of the wonderful things they are learning and their commitment to this competition. We want to support and encourage them in every way we can.”

Area high school students competed in the Mid-State Science Olympiad C Division at Le Moyne College in February. Many of those students are volunteering at the middle school event, Davis says. Davis has also lined up faculty and graduate student volunteers from the science divisions in SU’s College of Arts and Sciences, Le Moyne College, Onondaga Community College, the State University of New York College of Environmental Science and Forestry and the Rochester Institute of Technology. The collegiate volunteers will join a cadre of volunteers from local high schools (Fayetteville Manlius, Bishop Ludden, North Syracuse and Jamesville-Dewitt) and local businesses.

“This is one event for which I never have difficulties getting volunteers,” Davis says. “We have so much support from scientists across Central New York, especially those who are affiliated with the Technology Alliance of Central New York (TACNY) and Oneida Research Services.”

In addition to the support provided by The College of Arts and Sciences and its departments of chemistry and biology, the regional competition is also supported by Oneida Research, TACNY, the Syracuse Housing Authority, Hearth Management, Federal Express, Merck Pharmaceuticals, the Center for Forensic Sciences-Forensic Laboratories, Jeffrey Sneider M.D., Adraft, Intel and the Air Force Research Laboratory.

Competing school districts include Bishop Ludden, Canastota Central School, Cazenovia Central School, Chittenango Central School, Fabius-Pompey Central School, Ithaca Central School, Jamesville Dewitt Central School, LaFayette Central School, Marcellus Central School, North Syracuse Central School, Red Creek Central School, Sandy Creek Central School, the Syracuse Academy of Science, and West Genesee Central School.

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