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Fox Lane Science Olympiad Team Excels at State Tournament

 Fox Lane's Science Olympiad team poses in front of a banner for States

For the tenth consecutive year, Fox Lane High School’s Science Olympiad team qualified for the New York State competition. Held this year at LeMoyne College in Syracuse, 60 top teams from across the state competed in rigorous academic interscholastic competitions consisting of a series of team events well-balanced between science and engineering disciplines.

“When I describe Science Olympiad to my friends, I usually just say ‘its competitive test taking,’” said junior and team co-president Zach Cohen, who also participated in States last year. While that’s a highly simplified explanation (see this handout created by Zach and fellow co-president Max Rubinstein that explains things in greater detail), competitions and the preparation for them are intense.

“Each year, a portion of the events are rotated to reflect the ever-changing nature of genetics, earth science, chemistry, anatomy, physics, geology, mechanical engineering and technology,” said team co-advisor Gerry Ludwig. “By combining events from all disciplines, Science Olympiad encourages a wide cross-section of students to get involved. Emphasis is placed on active, hands-on and minds-on group participation to achieve a shared goal.”

Max, who is also a junior and competed last year as well, stressed the importance of teamwork during competitions.

“Synergy with your partner is important,” he said. “A good score is a combined effort. The tests are too long to do alone, so it's important to distribute the labor. We started studying for Astronomy by distributing topics specified in the Science Olympiad rulebook. Zach worked on the math section while I did more general trivia questions and identifying celestial objects.”

According to Zach, events at the competitions are broken into three categories: test events, build events and hybrid events (which combine the previous two). Students collaboratively prepare for competitions throughout the year.

A top-ten finish earns students a coveted State medal. This year, Fox Lane students medaled in two events and finished just out of contention for a third. Top medal earners Max Chen and Zach placed seventh in Fermi Questions. Max Chen and Gabe Wierzchowski finished tenth in Disease Detectives. Seniors Michael Mazurek and Owen Dunne finished twelfth in Microbe Mission. With two medals this year, Max Chen has earned a total of three State medals, becoming the third student from Fox Lane to earn three medals, with only one student ever earning more than three.

Preparation for State tournaments starts early in a student’s Science Olympiad career. Through guidance and support from Ludwig and co-advisor Fred Neumann, Fox Lane students identify their specific science or engineering lane in their first or second year of participation on the team.

“Paramount to the team’s success is the willingness of our third- or fourth-year students to mentor and share what they know with our newest team members,” Neumann said. “Once new Olympians experience success at the Regional or State tournament, they can’t wait to get back.”

Helpful in that build-up to success is that there are three different levels of commitment based on three different teams (competitive, non-competitive and very non-competitive, which is perfect for students who just want to try it out).

While tournaments are over for the year, team members continue to prepare collaboratively in hopes of returning to States next year.

While intense, the experience is not all work and no play. According to Max, camaraderie is one of the highlights of participating on the team.

“States is something the club looks forward to every year,” he said. “I'm personally always excited for the endless salad bar at Ruby Tuesday's for only $9.99 and our pilgrimage to the Destiny Mall.”

Max said the team always finds a way to enjoy their downtime together.

“Between events this year, the team played intense card games and improvised ping-pong rackets using Duct Tape and parts from the build events,” he said. “I think our greatest strength at States is our ability to pass the time we spend outside of events.”

Max also said, “I have a lot of love for this program. Science Olympiad helps me appreciate the world around me through learning.” He noted that his first-choice event was astronomy, even though it likely has nothing to do with his future career.

“It has given me a deeper understanding of space,” he said. “I have always found space interesting. For me, gaining a little knowledge about something helps me appreciate it that much more.” 

Zach noted all of the life skills he and his teammates have learned through their experiences.

“Science Olympiad is an amazing experience that helps train personal responsibility, willpower and study methods for your future academic career and beyond,” he said. “We have a close community, and we are always looking for new members — especially as our seniors (who made up a large portion of our team) are now graduating.”

Their co-advisors pointed to even more skills participating in Fox Lane’s Science Olympiad team builds on.

“Students experience teamwork, collaborative learning, meeting deadlines, understanding the design-prototype-redesign-build cycle, learning through adversity, asking for guidance, realizing ‘I can do better,’ and realizing ‘I need to do my best if the team is to be successful,’” Ludwig said.

Congratulations to the entire team on a job well done!

The Fox Lane State Team roster:  Maxwell Bly, Emma Chang, Max Chen, Zach Cohen, Owen Dunne, Rebecca Kolb, Ewan MacDonald, David Matz, Michael Mazurek, Max Rubinstein, Jasper Sizer, Felix Suiu, Arturo Tejada, Gabe Wierzchowski and Charlie Wilson.