UT Hosts Science Olympiad
By Jake Herman
Reporting Texas TV
AUSTIN, Texas — Young scientists flocked to the University of Texas campus Saturday to participate in the UT Invitational Science Olympiad.
Similar to an academic track meet, students can sign up to compete in any or all of the 23 events scattered around campus. The event has developed a reputation as one of the nation’s best.
“When their names get called up for an award, everyone’s cheering… it’s the greatest thing you’ve ever seen,” said Martin Nguyen, the president of ATX Science Olympiad.
ATX Science Olympiad is responsible for planning and leading each part of the event. The meticulous process began back in May and expanded to accommodate teams from more than 50 middle and high schools from across the country
“I remember competing in this event at UT when I was in ninth grade,” said Tim Elntiarta, the head coach of Sierra Vista Middle School’s team.
Elntiarta and his students traveled from Irvine, California, to compete in their first in-person tournament since before the COVID-19 pandemic. The team captured first place after nearly two years of daily preparation.
“I really want to make sure these kids can have that same experience and form their pathway through science. They’re putting in all this work, and now they get to see it come to fruition,” Elntiarta said.
Over 200 volunteers execute and judge the events, several of whom are UT students. Freshman Aditya Rao is another former competitor who said he learned valuable problem solving skills from the experience.
Rao officiated the Ping Pong Parachute competition. Participants built aircrafts carrying a ball and parachute. The longer the ball stayed in the air, the higher the score.
“It’s a lot of trial and error and seeing what works. It’s invaluable to have a real problem in front of you,” Rao said.
Student organizers and faculty volunteers hope the Olympiad will inspire the next generation of scientists to take their skills to the next level.
While the event was entirely student-organized, professors received invitations to speak at the award ceremony and answer participant questions.
“I think it’s a great way to reach students who are interested in science and tell them a little bit about my perspective,” geology professor Dan Breecker said.
He also underlined the significance of holding this event at such a large research university.
“I hope that the students see that what they’re doing now in middle school science can eventually end in a college education and a career,” Breecker said.