WEST ORANGE, NJ – The newly formed Science Olympiad Team at West Orange High School (WOHS) had the opportunity to attend its first regional competition at Union County College in Cranford last week—and the experience proved to be exciting and valuable, according to the team.

West Orange seniors Derek Lim (class Valedictorian) and Abraham Dada (recently accepted to Harvard University) built the team with the help of fellow seniors Divya Anand (recently accepted to Johns Hopkins) and Saurya Sanghvi (recently accepted to the University of Michigan). Faculty members Dr. Ronald Brandt and Michelle Schultz served as advisors and high school PTA provided the $300 registration fee.

The Science Olympiad is a nationally based competition for both middle school and high school teams. The rules allow for a maximum of seven seniors and five juniors. One sophomore also joined the WOHS team.

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All work and preparation were orchestrated by the students directly, as required by the rules of the competition.

The competition was a full-day program in which small teams of students from each school (one-to-three students per event) competed in 12 separate events involving chemistry, biology, physics and engineering skills.

Some of the competitions involved design and construction of projects ahead of time that were brought to the competition. For example, one student had to build a helicopter, another had to build a tower that could support heavy weights and a third student had to build a protein model.

Some competitions were unveiled to the students during the competition itself, i.e. a chemistry lab challenge, a forensics case, astronomy, anatomy and microbes.

The 24 schools that participated were judged in all competitions by college-level professors based on established criteria and points awarded.

At the end of the day, awards were given out in each of the individual events as well as team. The top schools move on to the state level.

“Although some of our students received individual recognition, the team did not score well enough to get a trophy and move on,” said Dr. Brandt. “The 24 schools that we competed against have been participating for many years and began preparing for this year’s competition in September. We didn’t start until December. So we consider this first year as a learning experience.”