Breaking down the elements

Early Saturday morning, middle school and high school students launched balloons off of Marvin Center, catapulted projectiles across Smith Center and designed a contraption known as the “boomilever” in the School of Media and Public Affairs building.

It may have looked like revenge of the kids, but the 800 students and teachers were actually competing in the 2008 Science Olympiad Invitational Tournament, hosted by GW.

More than 30 teams entered Saturday’s competition to prepare for their state and regional tournaments that will take place later in the year. In May, finalists will meet up once again at GW to compete in the Science Olympiad National Tournament.

Cathy Williams, a teacher from Fairfax High School in Virginia, attended the competition with her students on Saturday. Williams led two teams of 15 students and said that they have been preparing for the Science Olympiad since September.

“Some have been building robots, electric vehicles or cantilevers. Some have been doing labs in preparation for lab competitions and others have been assembling binders with study resources,” Williams said.

The competition ranged from science to technology, to engineering and mathematics. Some of Saturday’s events – which were held in buildings all over the Foggy Bottom campus – were titled “A is for Anatomy,” “Reach for the Stars” and “Sound of Music.”

Chris Kormis, the assistant vice president for University relations, said that GW plays host to the Science Olympiad due to efforts lead by Fred Siegel, the associate vice president and dean of freshmen.

Kormis said Siegel worked with the Science Olympiad National Tournament in 2002 when he was the associate provost for enrollment services at the University of Delaware.

“When he returned to GW, he brought the Science Olympiad to the attention of Donald R. Lehman, executive vice president for academic affairs, various deans and administrators, who in turn thought it would be a terrific way to support young students interested in science,” Kormis said.

Teams who entered Saturday’s event have not passed any preliminary competitions, but those who return for the national tournament will have to win in their regional and state science contests.

Kormis said that GW expects 60 middle school and 60 high school teams from 46 states to participate in the national tournament in May, which will take place on the Foggy Bottom and Mount Vernon campuses.

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