COLLEGE STATION - Nearly 1,000 Texas middle and high school students will put their science and engineering knowledge to the test this weekend in Aggieland as they battle for Lone Star State bragging rights in the 2014 Texas Science Olympiad (TSO), scheduled for Friday and Saturday (May 2-3) at Texas A&M University.
For the 13th consecutive year, Texas A&M will play host to the blockbuster finale that features 60 teams from across the state -- 30 each per middle and high school division -- in the ultimate battle of science- and engineering-related academic and at times even athletic wits.
Friday's events, which are free and open to the public, will run from 9:45 a.m. to 4:15 p.m. and be held at the Brazos County Expo Complex in Bryan. Saturday's competitions, set for 8 a.m. to 2:50 p.m., are restricted to participants only and will take place on the Texas A&M campus. All events will conclude with a Saturday evening awards ceremony (6 p.m. for Division B, 7 p.m. for Division C) at Bryan Civic Auditorium.
The rigorous academic contest, which is part of a broader national competition that aims to improve the quality of science education in schools, covers a variety of topics spanning the gamut of science, engineering and technology. Individually and collectively, each challenge is designed to test students' knowledge of a given subject through their combined use of problem-solving skills and teamwork.
Each competing school is permitted one team of 15 students who will compete in Division B (grades 6-9) or Division C (grades 9-12). During the course of the two-day competition, students will display their skills in a variety of ways, such as constructing helicopters and weight-loaded booms, assembling gravity-powered vehicles and building magnetically levitated vehicles powered by batteries that move a vehicle along a magnetized track.
"Science Olympiad is an incredible tool for teaching science and engineering," said Dr. Nancy Magnussen, director of the Texas A&M College of Science Educational Outreach and Women's Programs Office and state director for the Texas Science Olympiad. "It allows students who are academically gifted to excel and be recognized for their accomplishments much as the athletic program's successes are recognized. It truly is a program that offers a learning opportunity for just about all students.
"This program is so different from other science education programs in that it has something that can appeal to almost every kid, from the academically gifted to the analytical hands-on problem solver."
In addition to local coordinators from across the Brazos Valley, nearly 200 Texas A&M and Blinn College faculty, staff and students will be on hand to set up and judge the competition's 56 events, which feature 23 national as well as five Texas events per division. As in previous years, organizers and judges from NASA as well as from both the Houston and Austin communities also are volunteering their services and expertise.
First-through-fourth-place winners will be decided for each contest and subsequently recognized as part of an official awards ceremony slated for Saturday (May 3) at the Bryan Civic Auditorium. The two schools from each division with the lowest scores will advance to the Science Olympiad National Tournament, to be held May 16-17 at the University of Central Florida in Orlando.
Originally held in 1983, Science Olympiad has since grown into one of the nation's premier science competitions annually involving 6,800 teams from all 50 states as well as Canada and Mexico. The Science Olympiad is a non-profit organization dedicated to improving the quality of K-12 science education, increasing student interest in science, and recognizing outstanding achievements in science education by both students and teachers.
For more information on this year's Texas Science Olympiad, including event schedules for both divisions, click here.
To learn more about the Science Olympiad organization, visit http://soinc.org/.