Almost 750 middle-schoolers put their knowledge of science to a fun test Saturday at the annual Grayslake Invitational Science Olympiad.
It was held for the fifth consecutive year at Grayslake Middle School.
The meet was essentially a chance for teams from 48 schools to practice before entering various Illinois Science Olympiad regional competitions next month. Winners from regionals advance to statewide competition, winners of which enter a national contest.
The competitions included seeing how far hovercrafts could go, observing how long airplanes could stay in the air, and building a light bridge that could hold a lot of weight.
And then there was "The Scrambler." Competitors taped an egg to the front of a wheeled vehicle they built. The vehicle, after its release, had to circumvent a 5-gallon pail on its way to a wall 9 meters away, and stop before hitting the wall. The goal was to come as close as possible.
A duo from Grayslake Middle School avoided a crash and a crack.
"I love science," seventh-grader Alexandria Ries said after the race. "I love understanding everything. I like knowing everything that is going on."
In another gymnasium, teams were testing lightweight airplanes, propelled by the energy of wound-up elastic bands. Applause broke out when Shristi Rath and Sriesakthi Gowrishankar, seventh-graders at Daniel Wright Junior High School, attained flight times of 43 and 47 seconds with their plane. They made adjustments to the band between flights, as well as the height from which they launched the plane (so it wouldn't crash in to raised basketball hoops).
Shristi and other Daniel Wright teammates said that at first they participated in science Olympiads because their parents suggested it.
"We've learned to love it," said Hannah Liu, an eighth-grader at Wright, in Lincolnshire. The school's team won the national championship last year in the division for middle schools.
Most of the participating schools came from Lake County and northern Cook County. But there was also a team from Naperville, some from Chicago, and one from Oak Brook.