Grand County High School’s Science Olympiad team took second place overall among 38 competing schools at the annual state competition held Saturday, April 15 at the University of Utah.
Grand’s contingent included 14 high school competitors plus three students from Grand County Middle School. GCHS science teachers Mary Walker-Irvin and Laura Reed served as the group’s advisers and chaperones.
“Unlike with sports, at Science Olympiad there are no divisions like 5A, 4A, etc. We compete against all other schools,” said Walker-Irvin, adding, “So, we beat teams like Davis, West High, and Riverton. Laura and I are naturally quite pleased!”
Maple Mountain High ended up taking first place overall. Grand, which placed fourth last year, captured second place this year, edging past Hillcrest High by just three points.
Leading the way for Grand were senior Jayelen Knowles and junior Tyler Moreau, who teamed up to win the first-place gold medal in Ecology, an event that tests students on their ability to interpret photographs, data charts, and written descriptions, as well as general knowledge questions about ecosystems.
Also for Grand, juniors Ryan Lewis and Hannah Stripeika teamed up to win a silver medal in Forensics, which involves analyzing the evidence in a mock crime scene and attempting to find the culprit.
Lewis also teamed with fellow junior Gage Souza to win a bronze medal in Materials Science. Stripeika and Souza took the bronze in Microbe Mission. In addition, Ryan Reed captured a bronze medal in Game On!, an event that involves designing and building an original playable computer game based on assigned parameters and theme, along with a rules page, in less than an hour.
“We placed in the top 10 in most of our other events,” Walker-Irvin added.
Although the students typically spend weeks or months preparing for the competition, they often are faced with unexpected challenges.
As a case in point, GCHS senior Heather Sweeney’s balsa wood helicopter didn’t survive the bus ride to Salt Lake City unscathed.
“Many of the most delicate pieces were in fact broken, not just unglued, so I got the hot glue gun we had brought along, and we went out in the hallway and spent the next hour cutting out new pieces and gluing the thing together,” Walker-Irvin recalled. “We managed to get it assembled just barely in time for her to take it to the competition. Fortunately, it met all of the design and construction requirements (you lose points if it doesn’t), although it didn’t fly well at all.”
Even so, Sweeney still managed to take eighth overall in the Helicopters category.
Also competing for Grand in various categories at the event were seniors Tyrese Stash and Bjorn Nicolaisen; juniors Grace Osusky and Kaylan Young; sophomores John Goheen and Sadie Farnsworth; freshman Jaidyn Thomas; and middle school students Nova Hill, Brett Reed, and Jaden Nelson.
Also assisting the GCHS contingent was Udit Bhavsar, who graduated from GCHS in 2012 and is now finishing his pre-med program at the University of Utah. Bhavsar, who also participated in Science Olympiad while in high school, served as a judge for one of the events.