Competition Pits Students Against the Clock as They Complete STEM Events

Colorado State University-Pueblo hosted a science olympiad for middle and high school students.

by Luke Lyons, The Pueblo Chieftain, Colo. / March 14, 2016 0

(TNS) — In a chemistry lab at Colorado State University-Pueblo, middle school boys and girls were hard at work testing liquid diffusion using food coloring, water at varying temperatures, oil, syrup and assorted paper.

Sheila Ta, a student at the Corwin International Magnet School, explained that cold water was the best liquid for diffusion because of its temperature and consistency.

The experiment was one of 35 events at the Colorado Science Olympiad Southern Region Tournament held at CSU-Pueblo Saturday.

More than 1,000 boys and girls on 60 teams across Southern Colorado and Denver raced around the campus to compete in 35 science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) events.

"Just seeing how excited the kids are running around — it looks like an olympiad, it looks like a sporting event," said Abby Davidson, Southern Region co-director and curriculum development specialist and coordinator of the PROPEL Center at CSU-Pueblo.

The events ranged from teams building model planes out of wood and household items to a food science experiment in which kids made ice cream using milk, sugar and ice.

Each team spent 50 minutes in one event and had 10 minutes to make it to the next event.

Jillian Lopez, a sixth-grader from Corwin, enjoyed the scrambler event where she constructed a small vehicle out of wood and CDs which had to balance an egg without cracking it.

"It was a lot fun," Lopez said.

She hopes to receive an award after her vehicle travelled over 8.5 meters without one crack in the egg.

Alexis Roque and Jocelyn Lopez, also from Corwin, participated in the crime busters event where teams identified chemicals and other materials using basic forensic techniques.

"I thought it was a lot of fun," Roque said. "I like messing with the chemicals."

The top four finishers in the middle school and high school divisions advanced to the state tournament, scheduled April 16 at the Colorado School of Mines.

The tournament not only provided competition, but also an opportunity for kids to explore different disciplines of STEM.

Reilly Kaczmarek of Cheyenne Mountain Junior High School, whose favorite event was air trajectory, hopes to someday work in the medical field.

"The competition kind of helps me understand physics and math and science," Kaczmarek said.

Davidson hopes hosting the event will turn more students on to possible careers in science-related fields.

"I hope that it builds their excitement to pursue science in the future." Davidson said.

"This is such a huge first step for them to learn about these different topics."

©2016 The Pueblo Chieftain (Pueblo, Colo.), distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.