Five Big Island teams head to Oahu for Science Olympiad

  • Mia Polen and Leya Varricatt, students at Hilo Intermediate, compete in the Boomilever event at the 2019 Hawaii Island Regional Science Olympiad in February.

Although it’s been almost two months since the Hawaii Island Regional Science Olympiad competition, the five teams that qualified for the state competition this weekend on Oahu have been hard at work practicing their events.

As a result of their success in the regional tournament, Hilo Intermediate School, Ha‘aheo Elementary School, Kamehameha Schools Hawaii, Kealakehe High School and West Hawaii Explorations Academy were invited to compete at the Hawaii State Science Olympiad tournament on Saturday.

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In February, the University of Hawaii at Hilo campus was buzzing with excitement as the students gathered in small groups in the Campus Center Plaza while waiting for the first round of events to begin. Their areas of interest were diverse, from working with rubber-powered monoplanes to achieve longer lengths of flight, understanding how to assess water quality, or examining a hypothetical outbreak of a disease and developing a hypothesis for the cause of the outbreak.

The regional Science Olympiad competition has been hosted at UH-Hilo for the past eight years. University of Hawaii Interim Chancellor Marcia Sakai spoke to the students, encouraging them to continue their interests in STEM (science, technology, engineering, math)-based fields because the challenges they will face in the future will demand all of these skills.

From Maluhia Polido’s perspective, a sixth-grader at Hilo Intermediate, it’s all about having fun: “You’re learning something you’ve never learned before. We’re trying to learn the process of each challenge, the best way we can. Science is fun!”

For parents, the Science Olympiad provides an opportunity for students that they don’t get in schools.

Jennifer Kagiwada, parent of a participating eighth-grade student, said, “Science Olympiad provides ample time for students to figure out what interests them and uses fun building and partnering opportunities that they don’t usually get in a regular school day.”

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Coach Justin Brown at Kealakehe High School said that his commitment to coaching students for the Science Olympiad is due to his belief that it “is one of the culminating STEM events on Hawaii Island.”

“Each year, our students learn and achieve in a variety of STEM disciplines while developing both individual technical capacity and team collaboration skills,” he said.

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