Applying elements of sport to learning, Liberty Hill Middle School hosted its ninth annual Science Olympics on Friday.

Through a combination of lab and written tests, 90 students — 30 each from sixth, seventh, and eighth grades — earned their way to the games.

They competed in five science stations measuring and weighing and testing science knowledge. In a culminating group activity, students worked to create the most buoyant clay boats.

The day ended with a float off, with each grade testing their clay boat in a container of water, slowly adding pennies to the floating vessel. Adopt-A-School unit 9th Air Support Operations Squadron also submitted an entry.

Sixth-grader Kaitlyn Irizarry-Vega built the most buoyant clay boat, holding 121 pennies. The top eighth-grade boat held 96. The best seventh-grade boat held 64 and the ASOS entry held 111 before capsizing.

The top boat-builder said she learned something of boat construction last spring in the Killeen Independent School District Elementary Science Olympiad when she built a boat out of tin foil.

She said her clay boat held the most pennies because she made the walls high and not too thin. The sixth-grader also took care in the float off to balance pennies on the sides and not make a pile in the middle.

“It’s really cool,” she said of the event. “I like how we compete with our grade levels.”

Liberty Hill science teacher Roger Allen organizes the event annually based on science curriculum objectives to build excitement for science.

“We want to create enthusiasm and get them to enjoy science and to remember what they learn,” he said. “They also like the competition.”

In science Jeopardy, students raced to answer science questions. In Picture This, they drew science terms and raced to guess the answer. Other games required students to identify pictures of animals and to measure and weigh items.

“Science Olympics is a big deal for us,” said eighth-grader Daniel Young. “We work as a team. It’s fun because we get to be with friends.

“You really have to pay attention or you will completely miss something and we really want to beat the other teams,” he said.

Seventh-grade teacher Kari Thurman said the event shows the value of learning science through activity.

“The hands-on science application is what I like about it,” said Thurman. “I think kids learn better this way. They also get to be out of class, which they like, and they get to compete.”

They wore specially made T-shirts for the occasion, followed scoring on a large screen, thought through strategy and walked away with medals for their efforts.

“I like the spark in their eyes,” said Allen, “and I like how they cheer and support each other.”

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