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VIDEO: EMS Students Gearing up for Science Olympiad

On Tuesday afternoon, a throng of students crowded into Room 127 of Eastchester Middle School, buzzing around a newly constructed trebuchet and hurriedly offering suggestions on how to make the device launch projectiles further, faster and more accurately. 


And although there are admittedly still improvements to be made on the trebuchet—a catapult-like device used in medieval warfare—in the coming weeks, that process, which will be filled with trial-and-error and intense collaboration, figures to be a unique one for the middle schoolers participating in the inaugural year of Science Olympiad. 


Science Olympiad is a team STEM competition that hosts standards-based events across the nation for students in grades K-12. This year, for the first time ever, Eastchester Middle School students will take part in one such competition when they face off against a host of other local schools on March 4 at Scarsdale High School. 


Daniella Lore, who serves as Science Olympiad co-advisor alongside Tom Boissonnault, said that the impetus for launching the club this year was primarily to add another dimension to the school’s STEM offerings. 


“The reason I wanted to bring Science Olympiad to Eastchester is that we have so many great STEM opportunities here already, like Tech Club and Science Club, but we didn’t have anything that tapped into that competitive aspect,” said Lore. “And I felt it was a great opportunity for Eastchester students to be part of something that is not just within the school community but branches out into the larger community in Westchester as well.” 


The trebuchet launch will be just one of the 18 events at the March 4 competition that will test the ingenuity of Eastchester’s students across a broad swath of STEM areas. As the dozens of students participating in Science Olympiad begin to specialize in events that run the gamut from bridge-building to anatomy and meteorology, they may be discovering that their interests—and talents—are more varied than they once believed. 


Seventh grader Katerina Artemenko said that participating in Science Olympiad has helped unlock a passion for science—particularly chemistry—that she might not have necessarily discovered on her own. 


“Each day it has gotten more interesting, and now we’re making things and experimenting and it’s really cool,” she said. “At first I didn’t really know what to expect, but when we started testing our experiments with different chemicals, I realized this is actually something I’ve wanted to do for a long time.” 


Yuusuke Tseng, a sixth-grader who helped create the trebuchet, said that he has long been intrigued by engineering and robotics and saw Science Olympiad as an opportunity to work with other middle school students who have similar interests. Although the collaborative process has been something of an eye-opener, explained Tseng, solving scientific problems alongside fellow students has been particularly rewarding. 


“When I heard the description about Science Olympiad, I immediately joined up because I’m interested in doing science competitions,” said Tseng. “So far, building the trebuchet has been fun because, although we sometimes argue while working on the project, we’re all alike and are learning how to show it.” 


K-12 STEM Supervisor Minnie Iannuzzi said that she has been thrilled with the response to Science Olympiad thus far, and believes that endeavors such as this one—which was funded by a grant from the Eastchester School Foundation—will greatly enrich the academic experience for students in the district by supplementing existing programs.


"There has been strong parent support for more STEM opportunities in our schools and we are excited that Science Olympiad is a new initiative that answers that call," she said. "Seeing the excitement and energy tells me that we are doing the right thing by kids and providing more students with varied passions and interests the chance to compete at high academic levels."


With just weeks to go before the club’s first competition, the students are settling into specialized roles on different event teams. And although Lore said both she and Boissonnault are looking forward to seeing their charges in action at the Scarsdale event, she believes that the true value of Science Olympiad lies in the process itself. 


“The goal is not for them to walk out of here having learned a certain fact about science, but for them to walk out of here having used the problem-solving and analytical skills that prepare them for the 21st century,” said Lore. “Having them be able to think, collaborate, create and design, those are really valuable skills that they are getting to expand on here.”