PRCC hosts Gulf South Regional Science Olympiad

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PRC Middle School students Griff Bowen and Carter Kirby set up their bridge while PRCC Math Instructor Jonathan Morris observes

Pearl River Community College saw middle and high school students along with their teachers and parents enjoy a day of science fun at the annual regional Science Olympiad. PRCC has been hosting the Gulf South Regional Science Olympiad since 2015 with the 2021 competition done virtually. 

“We were really excited to have all these young scientists on campus again,” said PRCC Instructor of Biology and Gulf South Regional Director Robert Maynard. “This collaborative effort showcases the best of science and technology, working with others as a team to achieve a common goal.  

“It is also an excellent opportunity for students to visit our campus, so it is also a good marketing tool.” 

Eight schools brought a total of 10 teams for the event. Middle school teams came from Pearl River County Middle School in Carriere, Oak Grove Middle School in Hattiesburg and St. Patrick Catholic High School in Biloxi. High school teams came from Northwest Rankin High School in Flowood, Parklane Academy in McComb, Pearl River Central High School in Carriere, Oak Grove High School in Hattiesburg and St. Patrick Catholic High School in Biloxi. 

Each team could consist of up to 15 participants who compete in a variety of events in multiple science disciplines: Life, personal, and social sciences; Earth and space science; Physical Science and Chemistry; Technology and Engineering; and Inquire and Nature of Science. The focus of the events changes each year so that each annual competition is unique.  

Some events require core knowledge that is judged through written tests, while others require participants to perform tasks on-site. This year’s non-spectator events for both levels included Anatomy, Disease Detectives, Green Generations, Ornithology, and Write It/Do It. Middle school students could also compete in Crime Busters, Food Science, and Solar System. High school students had the additional options of Astronomy, Chem Lab, and Forensics. 

Abby Hammons was a team captain for Oak Grove High School this year and one of the only students from that school who participated in last year’s virtual competition. 

“Doing the event virtually last year was really hard,” said Hammons. “This year’s Write It/Do It was also difficult. But being in person is so much better.” 

SPECTATOR EVENTS  

Spectator events incorporated the need for students to build a device ahead of time and bring it on-site for testing. 

The Bridge Building Event had student-built bridges put to the test with up to 15kg of weight being placed into an attached bucket. Instead of focusing on the sturdiest bridge, the final judgement was tied to the best weight to performance ratio. This meant that a bridge that was lighter but broke before reaching the maximum added weight could be declared the winner. 

Connor McElroy and David Merrell represented St. Patrick’s with their well-constructed bridge. They had the only bridge that did not break under the added weight but placed second as they did not have the best weight to performance ratio.  

David Merrel and Connor McElroy from St. Patrick team with their bridge

“We made a great team and had a lot of fun,” said Merrell. “We hope to ‘upgrade’ our efforts this next year.” 

Trajectory (high school) and Storm the Castle (middle school) were events focused on the science behind catapults that relies upon the transfer of energy from one item to another. 

Vehicles constructed out of items such as CDs for wheels were entered into Mousetrap Vehicles (middle school) and Gravity Vehicle (high school.) The mousetrap vehicles relied upon the release of kinetic energy from the snap of attached mousetraps. The gravity vehicles needed to be released from a tethered spot on a ramp that was also constructed by the teams.  

Shivers Gymnasium hosted three different events related to flight. The Wright Stuff and Electric Wright Stuff had students building flying devices within certain parameters that were then launched across the gym floor by the student. Ping Pong Parachute used compressed air to propel the ping pong and attached parachute towards the roof of the gym before it drifted down to the floor. All three competitions had a focus on time aloft. 

AWARD WINNERS 

After a long day of events, attendees gathered for the awards ceremony where the top three students or partner teams for each event were announced. This was followed by the announcement of the overall winners. 

For B Division (middle school), third place went to team B-8 from Oak Grove Middle School, second place went to team B-6 from Pearl River County Middle School, and first place went to team B-4 from St. Patrick. 

Gulf South Regional B Division Third Place Team from Oak Grove Middle School
Gulf South Regional B Division Third Place Team from Oak Grove Middle School

Gulf South Regional B Division Second Place Team from Pearl River County Middle School
Gulf South Regional B Division Second Place Team from Pearl River County Middle School

Gulf South Regional B Division First Place Team from St Patrick

Gulf South Regional B Division First Place Team from St Patrick

For C Division (high school), third place went to team C-5 from Oak Grove High School, second place went to team C-4 from Parkland Academy, and first place went to team C-3 from Northwest Rankin. 

Gulf South Regional C Division Third Place Team from Oak Grove High School

Gulf South Regional C Division Third Place Team from Oak Grove High School

Gulf South Regional C Division Second Place Team from Parklane Academy

Gulf South Regional C Division Second Place Team from Parklane Academy

Gulf South Regional C Division First Place Team from Northwest Rankin High School

Gulf South Regional C Division First Place Team from Northwest Rankin High School

Northwest Rankin Team Captain Ben Curry was happy they could come to PRCC for the competition. They normally attend the Southwest Regional one at Copiah-Lincoln Community College which was cancelled for this year. 

“Science Olympiad really pushes me to learn new things I like such as astronomy,” said Curry. “It felt good to have the regional experience this year. Everyone here has been so nice, and we’ve enjoyed the beautiful campus.” 

The top teams from the regional events qualify to compete at the State Tournament at the University of Southern Mississippi in April. The winners at State are invited to attend the National Science Olympiad. 

One of the science teachers had a special surprise of a complimentary ticket to the Mississippi Science Teachers Association Conference to be held in Biloxi this April. Erin Seal from Pearl River County Middle School is in her first year of teaching and was thrilled to receive the ticket. 

ABOUT SCIENCE OLYMPIAD 

Science Olympiad tournaments have a variety of events that test knowledge of science facts, concepts, processes, skills, and science applications. The main goal of the event is to elevate science education and learning to a level of enthusiasm and support that is normally reserved only for varsity sports programs. 

In Mississippi, the regional tournaments allow as many teams from any individual school as the coach wishes to bring. At the state tournament only one team per school may advance. This can be an exact duplicate of a regional team, or a mix/match of the best competitors from the school’s regional teams. 

The Mississippi Science Olympiad is an official chapter of Science Olympiad, Inc. 

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