COSAM News Articles 2017 February The drive to strive: COSAM to host regional, state Science Olympiad

The drive to strive: COSAM to host regional, state Science Olympiad

Published: 02/02/2017

By: Candis Birchfield

The College of Sciences and Mathematics’ Office of Outreach has long hosted regional Science Olympiad competitions for K-12 students. This year, for the first time, the COSAM Office of Outreach will host the middle and high school state competitions.

Science Olympiad is a national, academic, competitive science tournament. Participating K-12 schools develop Science Olympiad student teams who are coached and mentored as they practice for regional competitions across the country. Elementary teams compete at the regional level only, and COSAM will host a regional elementary school contest this weekend on February 4.

The state of Alabama middle and high school regional tournaments take place in various locations throughout the school year. Top-performing middle and high school teams at regional competitions will advance to the state tournament at Auburn University on April 1 and have a chance to be selected to compete at the national level.

“Auburn faculty and staff are dedicating their time and resources to running the regional elementary competition, as well as the middle and high school state Science Olympiad events, which will run concurrently,” said Kristen Bond, assistant director of STEM Outreach Programs for the College of Sciences and Mathematics. “During these one-day competitions, we will host more than 1,000 top students from all over the state of Alabama who will participate in events and courses that are interpreted and implemented by Auburn faculty. The events would not be possible without the support of our faculty. We have coordinators representing various departments and units in the college who recruit colleagues to organize five to six events from their disciplines.”

The coordinators for Science Olympiad are Narendra Govil, professor in the Department of Mathematics and Statistics; Minseo Park, the J. T. Walter Professor in the Department of Physics; David King, professor in the Department of Geosciences; Christine Sundermann, professor in the Department of Biological Sciences; and Tj Nguyen, assistant director of the COSAM Office of Outreach SCORE program.

“The College of Sciences and Mathematics is pleased to be hosting the middle and high school Science Olympiad State Championships, as well as the elementary regional championship,” said Nicholas Giordano, Dean of the College of Sciences and Mathematics. “As a land-grant institution, Auburn University’s tripartite mission combines instruction, research and outreach. Programs like Science Olympiad demonstrate the extent to which our faculty are dedicated to Auburn’s mission as they volunteer their time and talent to ensure the young participants receive an invaluable experience engaging in STEM education through hands-on learning and spirited competition. Programs like Science Olympiad strengthen and enforce important skills and knowledge that will benefit tomorrow’s leaders, such as critical thinking, the ability to analyze data, the importance of teamwork, and a basic understanding of how science and math impact real-world scenarios.”

King, who has participated in Science Olympiad for approximately 25 years, enjoys the enthusiasm of the participants, especially during the award ceremony.
“My most profound memory from being an event sponsor was going over to the student activity building. They give the awards at the end, and the screams from the kids when they receive an award is just deafening,” said King. “What I think is special about Science Olympiad is it is set up like an athletic event, but it is a mental competition, and there are not so many of those versus the physical competitions. I assume that’s what attracts the students as well. Also, there is such a diversity of activities, there are so many things they can do in so many field areas. Kids really seem to love it. There is a lot of enthusiasm.”

Sundermann has been involved with Science Olympiad for approximately 12 years. She remarked that almost every faculty member she knows who has volunteered to assist with Science Olympiad enjoys the experience and returns to help, year after year.

“Bob Lishak (biology) retired last year, and he still wants to come back and help with Science Olympiad. It really is a lot of fun,” said Sundermann. “Part of what makes it fun is the enthusiasm of the kids. These kids get to visit Auburn, and many of them have never been here before. They get to see a college campus, and it really is a big deal for many of them. They come from all over the state, which is quite a trip, especially for middle school children.”

Sundermann noted the event is also good for Auburn University.

“These kids who participate are the best of the best, and the event provides good exposure for Auburn University,” said Sundermann. “We hope that some will chose Auburn eventually when it is time to make a decision about college. This is where you hope your future freshmen are going to come from, this pool of people, so it is good for Auburn, and it encourages and enhances the drive to strive for quality education in the schools. The coaches for Science Olympiad in the K-12 schools work hard to get the students prepared. It really is an Olympics for the brain.”

For more information on Science Olympiad, including details on how you can get involved, contact Kristen Bond at or (334) 844-5769.

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