By Michelle Kim

On Saturday, April 25th, 2015, OC Science hosted its first Junior Science Olympiad during Orange County Science and Engineering Week. There were six events: Scratch games, which was hosted by OC Coder, Shock Value, Rollercoaster, Bottle Balloon Vehicle, Marshmallow Tower, and Lego Challenge. Each student participated in one event in each of the two rounds, and the participants who scored the highest in their events were first put through a preliminary two-minute quiz, in which one person was selected out of each round, and then the finalists participated in the Science Bowl. After that, the top six students in each event were awarded medals.

Juwon Lee, a freshman at University High School and the captain of the Marshmallow Tower event, said that what inspired her to create her event was that “it was an excellent way to teach the kids how buildings are built in our everyday world, and that the students can build it themselves.” She also added that her favorite part of the event was “that there was a lot of hands-on activities, and that the marshmallows are something that they [the students] enjoy and have fun with, and that it was really cool to see what kind of designs they came up with.” She said that the fact that there was an end-product the kids could see and feel proud of made her feel happy as well.

Michelle Xu, a freshman at Beckman High School and the captain of the Bottle Balloon Vehicle, said that she was inspired by her own experience of building the vehicles, and so she “took this opportunity and decided to let these middle-school students also give it a shot.” Because this event requires a large amount of teamwork, “the kids learned how to work together, and they make new friends.” She states that she “liked seeing all the kids interacting with each other,” and she was “amazed to see how happy the kids were once they saw their finished vehicle.” She also enjoyed seeing the kids feel special when the crowd watched their vehicles roll down the track.

Neah Lekan, a freshman at University High School and the captain of the Lego Challenge event, said he drew inspiration for his event through his love for seeing “children, all those competitors and engineers, try to build something, and the smile that gets on their face is when that achievement is just indescribable. It can’t be said through words. It’s just something so special.” He wanted to “recreate that [look] by building lego bridges and see if [they] could be competitive enough to come together and build something amazing.” Through this event, the kids learned “two things: how to build the longest and tallest lego bridge possible with the least amount of materials, and how to come together as a team and build something that takes a lot of planning.” Since it “took a lot of planning, they learned design skills as well. It’s not just engineering, it’s the design of the bridge and the aesthetically pleasing [side of the bridge].” He stated that it “combines…hands-on building and building something in teams. It’s mixing other events together to build something that’s absolutely stunningly beautiful.” His favorite part of his event was watching the smiles and elation of the kids when they received awards for their bridges.

Various volunteers stated that although the events they were part of had some room for improvement, the hard work and dedication of the captains paid off in the end through the happiness and intelligence the students exhibited and garnered. Parents also agreed that through this experience, their kids learned many essential things such as teamwork and self-pride, and hope that this event will continue to happen each year.

In addition, a talented group of performers, the Incendium Quartet from Junior Chamber Music, performed before the start of the Junior Olympiad Awards. OC Science hopes that through their performance, students will begin to realize the importance of integrating science and arts. STEAM, or Science, Technology, Engineering, Art, and Mathematics, helps students realize their potential as not only engineers, scientists, or mathematicians, but also artists in varying subjects such as music and dance. By participating in STEAM, students are exposed to these topics and other interested students, and can extend their level of intelligence in all areas.