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The Arcadia Quill

The World Is Our Campus

The Arcadia Quill

The World Is Our Campus

The Arcadia Quill

Science Olympiad Wins 6th at SoCal States


In the early morning of Apr. 6, 33 high schools and 32 middle schools arrived on the historic California Institute of Technology (Caltech) campus, bringing their branded tents, cartloads of food, and  competitive spirits. The 39th Southern California Science Olympiad State Tournament, hosted by Caltech, was the culmination of a year’s worth (or longer) of study and dedication. 

The competing teams all had to first qualify in regional competition by placing in the top six, which is no easy feat. Arcadia High School’s (AHS) Science Olympiad team placed 6th in the Division C (high school level) tournament. While the team held the same overall placement last year, their total score, the sum of all the placements, was a 213—a massive improvement from last year’s 273. Arcadia’s success was closely mirrored by the Dana Middle School team, which also won 6th in their respective division competition.

Troy High School from Irvine, CA, took the tournament by winning 1st overall, and will be advancing to the National Science Olympiad Competition on May 24-25 in Lansing, Michigan. Following closely behind were Northwood High School, University High School, Glen A. Wilson High School, and Canyon Crest Academy. 

For junior Avani Athale, this season was filled with both successes and trials. 

“The night before states was both stressful and a bit bittersweet,” said Athavale. “For a large part of the day, my Flight partner and I had been working to fix up some issues that had come up last minute with my wing, and I was getting scared that it was all going to go downhill from there.”

Flight is one of the building events in which competitors must assemble a model airplane. The key is to build a lightweight device that stays airborne for as long as possible.

“After spending several hours in the morning and afternoon building a new wing and extra propellers, we went to test the planes one final time at around 7 p.m., and I did not finish until around 1 a.m.,” Athavale said. 

While she enjoyed seeing the project through to its completion, there was some part of her that felt a bit saddened by the end of a competition season. “It was bittersweet to realize that this would be the last night for many months that I would be spending testing for Flight. After I went home at around 1:15 a.m., I ate blueberries and tried to get prepared for the next day.” 

In addition to some lost sleep, the team also faced a near damaging setback when one of its members, senior Jeffrey Aaron, fell ill the night before the competition. With less than 12 hours to go before the big day, senior Liong Ma was called in to sub in—a call which, in previous years, has rarely been invoked. 

Freshman Bernice Deng also competed in the Flight event, and felt this about the competition.

“Flight is a building event in the Science Olympiad that uses free-flight rubber-powered aircraft to achieve the highest time possible,” said Deng. “I learned so much from the flight coach, Mr. Chou, and my partner, Avani, during practices. In addition, I gained many skills besides my aerodynamics knowledge including being more detailed, precise, and careful. From perfecting the best propeller to trimming the plane, this event has not only brought me joy but allowed me to foster unforgettable memories.”

Deng also reflected on her status as a freshman, acknowledging how much she has learned from being the youngest member on the team.

“Being the only freshman is an honor, especially competing and being with such amazing and fascinating people,” said Deng. “One particular instance is when my event leader (Emily Kaw) shared efficient ways to study and prepare for Geologic Mapping; their advice not only helped me do well in Geologic Mapping but also helped instill the importance of mentorship and collaboration for me.”

She added, “As our season wraps up, I appreciate the sense of community and team dynamics from the Science Olympiad that allowed me to learn as a first-year student in high school.”

For the first time, teams that were interested were able to enter a lottery-based draw to receive a tour of one of Caltech’s research labs. Arcadia was one of the fortunate teams, and spent the second half of the day touring the AMBER Lab, which specializes in bipedal, walking robots, and other novel forms of mechanical engineering. Led by Caltech grad student Noel Csomay-Shanklin, the team members learned about drone stabilization and the future of mechanical exoskeletons in physical therapy.

Athavale will be taking on the position of Co-Captain in the upcoming school year, and wanted to take the time to reflect on all the Science Olympiad has done for her.

“Nowhere have I seen such a dedicated group of people like those in Science Olympiad. Through Scioly, I’ve also greatly deepened my understanding of topics that are usually just barely brushed upon in school classes, like the applications of microbes, or the details of human body systems,” she said. “Through Scioly, I’ve found friends who enjoy learning as much as I do. I’ve found an incredible community of nerds through this team, all of whom I am so grateful for.”

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