By Alexander Xu

Even before the event officially started, the Huntington Building was bustling with activity. Underneath the sweeping roof and red pillars, volunteers carried tables, shifted supplies and set up chairs and projectors. The scene was a hive of activity, with OC Science captains and board members directing and organizing their volunteer teams. Just as things were settling down, elementary school students from around the county begin filing in to register for their events in the Elementary Science Olympiad Invitational.

For many of the students, this was their first time at an OC Science event. With a 30 percent increase in participants, many did not know what to expect, but they all had something in common: their love for science.

“I’ve never been to an OC Science event before,” said Alex. “However, I really like science because it is interesting and unpredictable.”

Other students liked science for different reasons. Some liked to build scratch games, some loved to experiment and still others liked to perform tasks and see results. A common theme was their love of hands-on activities, where they could interact and scientific results would come right back.

The events offered at the Elementary Science Olympiad revolved almost entirely around hands-on activities; events like Solid, Liquid, Gas demonstrated scientific concepts while allowing kids to interact with different states of matter, while events like Straw Towers allowed kids to test engineering concepts that they had learned.

“My favorite thing was watching the balloon blow up,” said Aaryan. “Watching the baking soda and vinegar make carbon dioxide was really cool.”

Students thoroughly enjoyed the hands-on activities that the event offered, as did volunteers.

“I love science,” said Nick C. “I love it when we get to help these younger kids to improve and get them interested in science.”

Later that day, OC Science helped middle school students channel their curiosity and love for science in the Junior Engineering Olympiad to answer various questions about science, such as, “What type of clay boat can hold the most weight?” They challenged kids to build lofty marshmallow towers using minimal toothpicks, taught them about physics through building roller coasters, helped students construct bottle balloon vehicles, and much more.

Middle school students participated in a wide variety of events, from building LEGO bridges to building self sustaining paper skyscrapers. These stations were designed to teach students important scientific concepts and promote scientific learning, as well as to teach kids important lessons.

At the roller coaster station, where students constructed model roller coasters that shot marbles, event captain Lucy Liu laughed, “There’s no art ability needed. It’s really similar to engineering, and it’s designed... to teach kids time management and teamwork.”

Mystery Architecture event captain Vesal echoed these sentiments. “I hope to get them to learn how to cooperate, as it’s a difficult engineering puzzle.” At the station, students were tasked with building tall structures out of very limited materials. “I hope they have a good time, though, and that they take away new knowledge of engineering efficiency.”

Students at other stations also took this philosophy to heart.

“My favorite part of this event was the development and concept, working with my partner, and the use of marshmallows as joints,” said one student at the Marshmallow Towers station.

The day ended in a Science Bowl, a quiz bowl style event in which selected students competed by answering questions on various scientific topics, ranging from basic physics to complicated biology. “This is the best part,” said Neah Lekan. “It’s so cool seeing these bright kids answer these questions so fast.”

The Science Bowl brought to a close another successful day for OC Science, and the event sets high hopes for OC Science and OCSEF for the following year.

The event was a resounding success, and if these last two years are any indication, it will be for years to come.

OCSEF allows volunteers with a love for science to give back to their community and show parents, students, and the rest of the world their capabilities and strengths.

Perhaps Dr. James Li, the Director of Youth Leadership and Co-President of the OC Science and Engineering Fair, said it best. “The best thing about OCSEF is that it allows high schoolers and 8th graders to show their passion for science, while getting new kids interested in the STEM process.”