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Article updated: 2/10/2014 7:48 PM

U-46 launches first Science Olympiad

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Eight teams of Elgin Area School District U-46 middle school and high school students will get a chance to show off their science prowess in the district's first Science Olympiad.

The competition will be from 7 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Feb. 22 at Abbott Middle School, 949 Van St., Elgin. It is open to students in seventh through 12th grades.

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Abbott, Canton, Eastview, Ellis, Larsen and Tefft middle schools, along with Bartlett and Streamwood high schools will compete with science projects students have been working on since November. Each school's team comprises 17 students.

Though the competition is new for U-46, "Science Olympiad has been going on for about 30 years (nationally)," said Heather Rocen, U-46 K-12 science coach. "It's starting to gain momentum now. My hopes are that it grows, that eventually we have all schools on board, and we expand it to our elementary schools."

During the Olympiad, students will take tests and conduct scientific experiments competing in various Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics, or STEM, categories. "Categories range from taking a test about the earth to building a tower out of balsa wood," Rocen said.

Rocen, who coached students for Science Olympiad in Chicago Public Schools for two years before starting as U-46's science coach this school year, said there aren't too many regional competitions that include elementary school students.

"Our goal is to get elementary schools on board in the next couple of years and just continue inspiring kids in the STEM field," she added.

Rocen said students get to work on topics they might not necessarily learn in school, and develop other skills such as learning organization and responsibility.

"It's very much a team building event," she said. "It engages all students. They don't do reports. They study. They build. It's more free thinking."

Event supervisors/judges come from all over and also from within the community, including professors and Science Olympiad gurus, Rocen said.

The top three teams -- two middle school and one high school -- from the district competition will advance to a state Science Olympiad competition in Champaign-Urbana in April.

The district is seeking volunteers to work shifts during the Science Olympiad as testing proctors, hallway directors, lunch supervisors, and for other tasks. High school students who volunteer are eligible for community service hours. To volunteer or for more information, email Rocen at heatherrocen@u-46.org.

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