KINGSPORT — After about two decades of competing at the state level and finishing as high as second place, a local middle school’s Science Olympiad team has finished first.
It won a slot to represent the Volunteer State in a national competition later this month.
The Robinson Middle School team recently won the Division B Tennessee Science Olympiad state competition. That means the 16-member team of grades 6-8 students will represent the state at the national tournament May 22, to be conducted virtually by Arizona State University.
It marks the first Science Olympiad win for Robinson.
The Robinson team is coached by eighth grade science teachers Marsha Buck and Daniel Way, as well as Cameron Buck, Marsha’s son. The team members are Noah Bucchi, Rishab Dey, Ashley Foster, Lily Gould, Jack Kitzmiller, Victor Kitzmiller, Eesha Kothari, Kaylah Lang, Claire Li, Vicky Li, Mulan Ma, Cooper Reed, Eric Shao, Jaya Vashisth, Elli Way and Elizabeth Williamson.
Several community mentors representing Eastman Chemical Co., BAE Systems and former KCS teachers assist the students as they prepare to compete.
“This year we were just prepared,” said Cooper, an eighth-grader in his third year on the Robinson team. “When I get older, I’d like to be an orthopedic surgeon.”
Unlike the past in-person competitions, eighth-grader Claire said, the group this year did not get to detect the dissolved salt content of a solution using a salinometer.
“There are a lot of lab events,” Claire, in her second year on the team, said of food science and other events. “I’ve been thinking when I grow up I want to go into the medical field.”
The theme for the 2021 national tournament is “Innovation.”
The Science Olympiad National Tournament is the pinnacle of achievement for 120 of the country’s best Science Olympiad teams and the Global Ambassador Team from Japan, representing more than 2,000 students.
“Science Olympiad competitions are like academic track meets, consisting of a series of 23 team events in each division,” Way said, saying the win is the first for Kingsport City Schools and for any school east of Knox County.
“Each year, a portion of the events are rotated to reflect the ever-changing nature of genetics, earth science, chemistry, anatomy, physics, geology, mechanical engineering and technology,” Way said. “Students compete in events as groups of two to three students. Each event score adds to make the team score like a track meet. Events involve university-level academic tests, design challenges, computer coding challenges, and laboratory events.”
Way said students spend hours every week, including entire Saturday mornings and Tuesday and Thursday evenings from October through May, to prepare for competition. He said it is more difficult for public schools to compete with private or magnet schools in the Olympiad.
Marsha Buck said the state competition, also held virtually, was April 24 with results announced April 29.
“We have done as high as second in the past,” Buck said of the program, started at Robinson by Hope Hall and continued by Buck, Way and others over the years.
Way said that past Robinson Olympiad team members include one who graduated from Harvard University and another who worked for NASA, as well as some who became National Merit Scholars.