The Regional Science Olympiad celebrates its 25th anniversary at MTSU this Saturday, Feb. 22, with 11 middle schools and 10 high schools sending nearly 30 teams altogether seeking berths in the State Science Olympiad.
Science Olympiad is an American team competition in which students compete in 23 events pertaining to various scientific disciplines, including earth science, biology, chemistry, physics and engineering.
Regional Director Pat Patterson receives excellent support from MTSU science faculty members and students in the running of events that include “Ping Pong Parachute,” Elastic Launched Glider,” “Gravity Vehicle” and “Boomilever.”
“All of the previous regional tournaments have been special, but this one seems extra special,” said Patterson, an MTSU chemistry professor, who assumed leadership of the competition in 2002 when Tony Johnston, now director of the School of Agriculture’s fermentation science program, left to fulfill a two-year obligation in the U.S. Air Force Reserves.
“Who would’ve thought many years ago when I started working with this that we would come to a point of 25 years?” Patterson added. “I see the kids excited. I have the new folks excited, so that’s what’s special to me. We have faculty, staff, alumni and current future teachers excited about science.”
Patterson also finds it exciting that some of her former students are bringing teams to compete in the contest that emphasizes the STEM subjects of science, technology, engineering and math.
“These are young folks that I had years ago who may be middle school or high school teachers now,” she said. “When they were here, I involved them in Science Olympiad. They were my helpers. They were my runners and they helped some of my event coordinators.”
“They saw that this is the best of STEM,” Patterson added. “It’s not just a notebook and paper-and-pencil kind of test. Students are building events.”
Competing high schools include Central Magnet (two teams), Franklin (two), Page, Lebanon (two), Riverdale, Shelbyville Central (two), Smyrna (two), Stewarts Creek (two) and Tullahoma (two).
Competing middle schools include Blackman, Central Magnet, Christiana, Dayspring Academy (two). La Vergne, Nashville’s Martin Luther King (two), Rockvale, Rocky Fork, Nashville’s St. Bernard Academy, St. Rose of Lima and Smyrna (two).
Former College of Basic and Applied Sciences associate dean Jeff Allbritten, now president of Florida SouthWestern State College in Fort Myers and three other campuses, was the first regional director in 1996. Johnston and biology professor Steve Howard became co-directors in ’97, with Johnston directing through the February 2001 event. Patterson has overseen 19 regionals.
The State Science Olympiad will be held Saturday, April 25, at the University of Tennessee-Knoxville.
MTSU has more than 300 combined undergraduate and graduate programs.
— Randy Weiler (Randy.Weiler@mtsu.edu)