Science Olympiad makes history with state competition

by Maria Siragusa, STAFF WRITER

30 April 2018


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Science Olympiad participants Katherine Gannon, Lauren Antoniolli, Makenna DeCauppa, and Sarah Bombrys pose with their 5th place regional plaque. “My favorite memory from this season was the moment that we found out we qualified for state. I got to go up to the stage and accept the plaque on behalf of the team with my co-president Katherine, and it was one of the most rewarding moments that I have ever experienced,” Antoniolli said. Photo courtesy of Mary Gannon.


Making History

On the weekend of Friday, April 20th to Sunday, April 22nd, East’s Science Olympiad team traveled down to The University of Illinois and used their extensive knowledge across all spectrums of STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) to compete in the state competition for the first time in school history.

At the end of the competition, the team left with four fifth place medals in various categories, a number of sixth place finishers, and the title of 14th in the state out of 24 division A teams.

Science Olympiad competitions consist of 23 unique events, ranging from Mouse Trap Building to Herpetology(the study of amphibians), both of which East’s team had competitors in. Depending on the event, competitors either take an extensive test on the specific subject, or they build contraptions that correspond to certain categories.

Senior Co-President Katherine Gannon built a Mousetrap vehicle and competed in several other events. Gannon has participated in Science Olympiad since middle school and thoroughly enjoys the subjects that the program exposes students to.

“I love seeing how passionate people are about science and STEM education, because to a lot of people who aren’t interested in these things it probably seems like you go and just take some tests,” Gannon said. “But it really is rewarding seeing how excited people get when they end up doing as well as they wanted.”

Senior Makenna DeCauppa is a first time varsity member this season who worked closely with Gannon throughout high school and is glad that she decided to join the team.

“My two best friends have been doing Science Olympiad since 7th grade, so I’ve always know about it and that they really enjoy it. They have been trying to get me to join for years, but it wasn’t until last year, after they told me there was an anatomy and physiology event, that I gave in,” DeCauppa said.

After competing this season and getting to go to state this season, DeCauppa is glad that she made the choice to join the team.

“I love being on this team and it has definitely had a positive effect on me this year,” DeCauppa said. “I’ve gotten to study subjects that I adore and learn a lot about things I never would have even considered looking into! I’m glad I finally joined after all these years.”


The Road to State

The program has come a long way from it’s humble start nine years ago. Senior President Lauren Antoniolli remembers the small size of the team her freshman year. But, the club continues to grow each year.

“Over the past few years our team has grown tremendously. We had almost fifty members this year, all of which brought different skills to the table. Our fifteen varsity members all had science Olympiad experience prior to this season, but I feel that this year was really special,” Antoniolli said. “We all worked hard and learned a lot, and I think that our successes this year created a lot of excitement about what this team can do in the future.”

The team only competed in two competitions this year: regionals and state. The regional competition was held at Neuqua Valley High School on March 3rd. Nine-year sponsor Scott Johnson said that it encompasses some of the best schools in the state, so making it past regionals wasn’t an expectation for most of the team.

“We were blown away when we got 5th place at regionals. We have a very difficult regional. Then it was crunch time and students realized that they had less than a month to prepare for state,” Johnson said.

Freshman Derek Zhu recalls how shocked he was when Oswego East was called to advance to state at sectionals. This advancement was something that he was very appreciative of.

“We didn’t expect to make it to state this year because we felt we did not spend as much time as we could have practicing,” Zhu said. “The club was formed fairly recently so we were the underdogs. But, we worked hard and performed a lot better than we expected at the regional competition.”


Hard Work Pays Off

At the state competition, twenty-four teams from across Illinois came together to compete in a wide variety of science related areas. Medals were awarded to the Top 5 competitors in each area, and total team points were added up after all events to determine overall team rankings.

Competitors are able to compete in many events with a partner which adds a really interesting aspect to the competition. Johnson has always enjoyed science and was initially interested in this competition and its arrangements.


“I feel that this year was really special. We all worked hard and learned a lot, and I think that our successes this year created a lot of excitement about what this team can do in the future.”

— senior Lauren Antoniolli


“It’s a fun and unique kind of experience where students are competing in teams of two in these weird events and we get collectively scored. It’s a really unique dynamic because it’s an individual thing, but you always have a partner, and then your partnership needs to perform well so that the team can succeed,” Johnson said.

Co-sponsor Kristen Koch is proud of how the team performed and said that this season the team gained a lot of valuable lessons that they will carry into following years.

“I think that in the following years, students are going to be able to step up to the plate even more. They’re going to be more prepared, and I think it was really good for the younger members of the team to see that state is a possibility for our school. If we keep doing the work that we did this year, then we can make it in the following years to come,” Koch said.

Zhu is one of those students who will step up to the plate in future years. Though he is only a freshman, he has attended the state science olympiad competition in middle school. The event remains as enjoyable to him as it was his first time, and he looks forward to getting to compete again in the future.

“Overall, this experience was just as fun as my first time going because I got to spend time with others and be in a friendly competition environment with the diverse students who also came to compete. We learned a lot from this experience about how we can help each other and cooperate to bring success to the team,” Zhu said.

As for Gannon who is a senior, this was her last year competing. She is very happy with the outcome of this season and her experience in science olympiad. Gannon also said that she has learned a lot over the last four years and that it potentially helped her with her future plans.

“[This season] was really motivating to me because I want to go into environmental engineering and I want to make sure even though I’m not going into teaching, I want to keep working with kids and pushing them to that because I think STEM engineering is really important for the future,” Gannon said.

Aside from new science-related context that the team learned, they also gained knowledge that they can apply to their everyday lives. Antoniolli said that being president has taught her a great deal about being a good leader and other life lessons.

“After five years of competing in science Olympiad and not qualifying for state, this experience really taught me the importance of perseverance. I did not give up on myself nor my team, and because of this we were able to make school history during my final season,” Antoniolli said. “I have learned so much about science in all different areas through my time in [science olympiad], and it has really sparked my passion for learning. At state I made some incredible memories with my best friends, and this is definitely an experience that I will never forget.”

All in all, the team saw a lot of success this season. DeCauppa was glad to have been a part of this experience and is very content with the way that things played out in her final high school Science Olympiad season.

“There are a lot of teams who deserve to win. [Making it to state] could have been the difference of one or two questions. That being said, you can’t take it too seriously because anything can happen,” DeCauppa said. “Lauren and I medaled 5th in WiFi Lab and that is the last thing I ever would have expected. You just have to relax, enjoy the experience, and give it your best.”



Maria Siragusa is a staff writer for Oswego East High School’s online news magazine the HOWL

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