Others strive for fluency.
Science Olympiad members at Cleveland High School actively engage in science, math, technology and engineering studies, known as the STEM subjects. The team of 18 placed at regionals and will compete at the state level on April 6.
“We have some experienced seniors who have taken a lot of science classes at Cleveland High so they are very well prepared,” said Jeannie Cuervo, Olympiad coach. “On the other end of the spectrum, we have some really enthusiastic freshmen.”
Fellow Olympiad coach Gabriela Talent said the combination of seniors and freshmen has strengthened the team.
“The older members took the freshmen under their wings this year,” Talent said. “They complement each other and work well together.”
Olympiad competitions usually take place on a Saturday and last from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. Only 15 members are allowed in the competition. Each of the 15 prepare for three or four of the 23 events held throughout the day. To advance from regionals, all 15 members had to earn either first, second or third place.
A coach’s manual details knowledge needed for each of the 23 events. Olympiad team meetings are held every Wednesday following CHS dismissal. Students work hard to advance their devices and knowledge for their events.
Cuervo said teamwork is emphasized.
“It is important for them to prepare for these events together as they go into each event with a partner,” Cuervo said. “Part of it is collaboration and communication and knowing how to work together.”
Continued Cuervo, “It is important for them to practice together so they know what the other’s strength and weaknesses are, and how to communicate effectively with each other.”
Extra lessons are held throughout the week for specialized instruction.
Naveli Shah, CHS junior, said an after-school chemistry lab has effectively placed her ahead of her peers.
“These students learn so much because they are not just memorizing things,” Cuervo said. “They are learning skills. They are learning how to identify things. They are also learning how to do labs and apply their knowledge.”
According to Shah, members are having fun as they learn.
“It is so much fun,” said Shah who learned about the club from her cousin. “He told me you learn a lot of things even in one day.”
Shah said part of her interest is hanging out with friends with similar intellectual interests.
Oliver Conn, CHS freshman, said the club is just really fun.
“I’ve learned a lot about engineering. I feel like it will prepare me for later lessons,” Conn said.
Conn and his teammates developed a gravity car which placed first at regionals. His team had to build a car and a ramp with a release mechanism to drop the car. A brake was also designed to stop the car on the spot.
Coach Mara Grisham said she helps out to see the kids’ faces.
“It is just nice to see the kids’ eyes light up when they accomplish something they did not believe they could. They see all of these rules and specifications and they ask, ‘How are we going to do this?’” Grisham said. “When they get to the competition and it actually performs well, it is just great to see their faces.”
Some clubs at Cleveland High are designed to meet graduation requirements. Cuervo said the Olympiad team is solely for those who enjoy the sciences.
“They are here purely for the love of science. They do not get any credit,” Cuervo said. “Although, I’m sure it looks good on their transcripts if they choose to pursue a STEM career. They just come because they get excited and they want to do science.”
Talent said she coaches for the love of the people the Olympiad attracts.
“Honestly, I am a nerd and I really like nerds and I want to show them it is OK to be a nerd,” Talent said. “There is nothing weird about it. We are wired differently, and that is fine.”
She also said parents of Olympiad members have been very supportive.
“They attend the matches and brought snacks for the kids. All the students had to do was compete, eat and go to the next event,” Talent said.
All three coaches gave an open invitations to STEM professionals who would like to operate as an adviser or coach.
“If there is a retired engineer out there who wants to come out and help then they are more than welcome,” Cuervo said.
Added talent, “If there are any doctors who have some time on their hands, they are welcomed.”
Grisham said acting as a coach is her way of promoting the sciences and giving back.
“I think a lot of shools could use more volunteering,” Grisham said. “Volunteering is a great way to give back. It is just a matter of finding where they fit.”
Cleveland High’s Science Olympiad team will be returning to state for a fifth time in April. The team has not made it to this level of competition in several years.
Give them a month.
Between dedicated coaches and invested students, Cleveland High’s team just might be making headlines at a newsstand near you.