05222018 Headline:

Science Olympiad concocts new tricks to step up the competition

Students brings new mindset, methods, and coach to Regionals

By Xavier Auer

Students on Varsity 1 accepting trophies for 1st place at the regionals competition.
Photo Courtesy Of: Abigail Quinsay

On 3 Mar. 2018, RAHS Science Olympiad (Sci Oly) traveled to Seattle Central Community College to compete in the Regionals competition, competing against several other high schools. This year, the team brought a few new things to the competition, including a method to 3D print build parts and a brand new coach.
At the beginning of this year, a new method of building was introduced, using 3D printed parts, that students designed themselves for particular and niche usages. Senior James Mitchell who is currently in his first year on the team both designed many of the parts that Sci Oly has used, and has supplied the team with a 3D printer.
“Early in the season, my team used 3D printed prototypes to visualize what we were designing, allowing me to fine tune my main build event [Mission Possible, where students must build a Rube Goldberg machine] and reduce its size [a main scoring element] massively,” said Mitchell. “While 3D printing technology has also allowed us to make jigs and guides for other less build-centric events to maintain accuracy and consistent scoring. It is hard to exaggerate the array of applications that printing can be applied to.”
Although Mitchell believes that the usage of 3D printers may give Sci Oly an advantage, he also notes how the technology can be accessible to everyone.
“Overall, 3D printing is an important skill for young engineers to use. Period,” said Mitchell. “So it is a technology that schools should strive to provide for their students and it is important to note that providing 3D printing is fairly cheap for a school. Our main workhorse machine cost less than a school microscope, at around $170, and has printed almost every part our Sci Oly team will be bringing to regionals.”
Because a lot of the parts are custom made, they have to be designed by students at the school so that the parts can fill niche roles in order to do their job perfectly.
“The design process for the complicated parts we use for Mission Possible is time consuming and hard,” said Mitchell, “especially when weighing the work with a full academic load and college apps. But the slow methodical wines of the printer slowly churning out a recently completed design is one of the most fulfilling feelings possible.”
This year a new build philosophy came into play in which teams are selected on individual events rather than a group that contains certain events. Senior, and Build Vice President Erik Harang helped organize a team to pioneer this new philosophy.
“This year, we decided to experiment with a concept of mine called Unified Build Group (UBG),” said Harang. “The essence of the idea is that you have groups of seven people who do all of the 11 build events, and can better distribute people to events based on their unique talents and interests.
Currently in Sci Oly people must compete in teams which consist of a group of set events that the members must compete in, making Sci Oly in some ways very limited, and restrictive. On how the UBG allows for members to have flexibility, and more choice in what they want to do.
“For example, it would allow someone with flight expertise to work on both LEAF and helicopters,” said Harang, “or someone good at working with balsa to do both helicopters and towers. It also should provide more consistency, instead of the current situation where some groups are more competitive than others on a year to year basis.”
There are many issues with the current team system that Sci Oly uses, and most of these issues can be resolved by the new UBG system, which would otherwise be problematic, and detrimental to some teams.
“Another pro is that you can avoid most of the issues we’ve had this year where some top pairs are forced to compete below their rank due to the limit on seniors, by simply putting a cap on the numbers of seniors in a UBG.”
New to the team this year is a brand new coach Mr. Mannion, who is new to the school this year, replacing Nikhil Joshi as the full time Study Coach. This competition was the first regional competition Mannion will be in.
“I think it’s going to be really exciting,” said Mannion, “I’m exciting to see how this competition is different from other competitions.”
As he prepares for regionals he reflects on how this year has been for him so far, and how Science Olympiad has shown him some unique things about our school, especially the drive that students have in order to succeed.
“I have enjoyed watching students grow over the year,” said Mannion, “They have made some amazing and wonderful things, especially on the build side. Awesome things and devices that I would never think that regular high schoolers would. And I’ve been very excited to see that.”

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