Wright Jr. High science team aims for national title
Students and teachers are thrilled about the opportunity to win what could be the Lincolnshire school's first U.S. Science Olympiad title in the middle school division.
"Going to nationals feels amazing and nerve-wracking at the same time," said Michael Kim, a seventh-grader on the team. "I think that all the practicing we have done will shine through and will help us do well in the end."
More than 2,000 middle school and high school students on 120 teams will compete in the contest, which begins Friday and concludes Saturday at the University of Wisconsin-Stout.
The Wright team finished fifth in the national tournament last year. It's placed second and third in prior national contests, team coach Laura Coirier said.
She described the 21 members of this year's squad as the "cream of the crop."
"These kids are some of the best and brightest I have ever seen," Coirier said. "I see future doctors, scientists and thought leaders in the making."
The team won the state title in April at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. No other Illinois middle school has won six state championships in a row, Coirier said.
The top two teams in the state in each division proceed to the national competition. The other Illinois school competing in the middle school division this weekend is Wilmette's Murphy School.
Illinois' representatives in the high school division are Lincolnshire's Stevenson High and Winnetka's New Trier High.
Stevenson won the state title in its division this year and in 2015.
"It's no surprise that we do well. We pick up a lot of District 103's alumni," Stevenson spokesman Jim Conrey said.
The Wright team will participate in 23 events in three categories: study, build and lab. Events change annually.
Study events focus on subjects including anatomy, fossils, diseases and meteorology.
The build events require engineering skills. The students have to construct vehicles, bridges, bottle rockets or other objects.
Lab topics include food science, wind power and experimental design.
Kim's favorite Science Olympiad subject is anatomy.
"I love a good challenge and since this event is extremely difficult, it's right up my alley," he said.
Kim was on last year's national Science Olympiad team, too. He takes the responsibility pretty seriously.
"The key word is 'team,'" he said. "Not one of us can do this alone. We all have to work really hard at it."
Coirier noted the Wright team includes several students who won individual gold medals at last year's national tournament. They include two-time national gold medal winner and seventh-grader Emily Liu.
"If we can place in the Top Eight in every event, we will win the national tournament, and we believe we will win," Coirier said. "This is where all of the Saturday practices and bus ride study sessions pay off."
Prizes for top teams include cash awards, college scholarships, scientific equipment and science-related trips.