Now a tried-and-true formula for success at Liberty Hill Middle School, students once again turned measuring and figuring into competition during its 15th annual Science Olympics.

The school conducted its traditional games connected to science Nov. 17 with 90 students divided into even teams among sixth-, seventh- and eighth-graders.

Wearing distinguishing T-shirts as jerseys, students worked in groups through five preliminary games, including an

Amazing Race relay, before working in groups to design rockets to fire at a target elevated just below the ceiling of the gym.

In her third Science Olympics, eighth-grader Kaily Funez-Lenon was excited to win her first medal when her rocket earned the most points among her grade level. Her team also won second among eighth-graders.

Holding her wining rocket, she said it was heavy on tape and shorter than most of the others, apparently creating the needed aerodynamic structure. “I modeled it after what looked like the best,” she said, admitting there was probably luck involved, too.

“I like the competition and it was a surprise to win,” she said.

Not everyone makes it to these Olympic games. Students must qualify to compete based on a written test and a lab test.

Eighth-grader Richard Glossom, competing for the third and final time in the games, couldn’t imagine not making it into the competition.

“Science Olympics is great,” he said. “I get to compete and I get out of class.”

Last year, he said, his team finished in first place in the culminating team project.

“We got it done faster by working together,” he said, explaining how teammates worked last year on various building pieces before combining their efforts to make paper-and-cardboard marble run tracks.

Using the same scientific method and trial and error testing this year, students honed their rockets. On a PVC-pipe launch pad, they took careful aim before a teacher released the compressed air to fire the paper missiles.

Eighth-grader Amara Tucker showed how she added a fourth fin to the rear of her rocket to make it fire straight. Sixth-grader Daija Readus changed her design from four to two fins and pulled off some tape to make the craft lighter.

Games leading up to the final project included trivia contests, a memory game and a game called “Picture This” with students drawing science terms for their teammates to guess.

Another game, a relay, combined physical tests with answering questions about science.

“I like the academic competition,” said sixth-grade science teacher Shontel Wiggins. “These are students of all different levels coming together. We’re making the academics fun.”

Since only 30 students from each grade level make it into the event, qualification is a big deal. “We announce it and make a big deal because it’s a big accomplishment,” Wiggins said.

For older students, the games reinforce what they have learned and for the younger ones it can be an introduction to new concepts. For all, though, it’s a chance to work in teams and excel in a favorite field.

“It’s fun to work with a team,” said eighth-grader Jasmine Loree, a second-time qualifier in the games. She pointed out that she was working with a group of peers different from her usual group of friends.

She said the final project, working together to build the rocket, was the most rewarding part.

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