Middle school Science Olympiad team works through pandemic

Kent Weeklies
Ping Pong Parachute teammates Luke Metoki and Noah Bartlett took a second place flight at the Westlake Invitational.

The Hudson Middle School Science Olympiad team has been working hard since everything shut down in March of 2020. Even though the 2020 spring season was canceled, 26 of the returning students continued to meet via Zoom all summer.

In the fall, the team added 30 new middle school students and the team has hit the ground running. Science Olympiad tournaments usually involve long early Saturday morning bus rides, lots of down time in classrooms, challenging hands-on tests, an evening awards ceremony that always starts late, and then a long dark bus ride back to Hudson Middle School.

However, this year the Science Olympiad community has shifted competitions into the virtual world, building a completely online testing platform so students can still compete remotely from home with teammates in a multitude of events ranging from anatomy and physiology, to density lab and ornithology. Some hands-on building events can be video recorded and submitted online.

For example, Ping Pong Parachute is an event in which a ping pong ball is attached to a student-built parachute and placed on top of a student-designed rocket. An air-pressurized mechanism launches the rocket into the middle school gym rafters and the ping pong ball safely floats across the gym. The longer the ball stays in the air, the better the score.

Now that tournaments are virtual, teams from around the United States can compete against each other in what would normally be local regional invitationals. The first invitational of the season for the Hudson Middle School team was the Northview Invitational in the middle of December. With 58 teams including a number of national powerhouse schools competing, Hudson finished in sixth place which included a first place finish in the event Experimental Design.

In early January the team competed in the Westlake Invitational, and it was the best performance in the history of the program, given the level of competition. Hudson Middle School brought home the hardware, winning 18 sets of medals, finishing fifth overall, and placing fifth in the Super Team Rankings. To put this performance into context, there were 61 total teams.

Eight-time national champion Solon Middle School was edged out by Jeffery Trail (California) for first place. Two-time national champion Daniel Wright Junior High (Illinois) finished in third, current defending National Champion Kennedy Middle School (California) finished in fourth place, Hudson Middle School finished in fifth place, and Timberline Middle School (Washington State) finished in sixth place. In total there were teams from nine different states, and 15 schools from Ohio; Beachwood (9th), Granville (15th), Kentson (18th), Westlake (19th), Mentor Memorial (21st), Timberstone (23rd), Rocky River (33rd), Arbor Hills (36th), West Liberty (37th), McCord (40th), Mentor Shore (42nd), Copley-Fairlawn (44th), and Seton Catholic (46th).

Up next are a number of “local” invitaionals before the Regional tournament in March and State tournament in April. Head coach Dr. Jordan Renna said it has been a great start to the season and he is excited to see how the team continues to develop over the course of the season. “We are so appreciative of the support for this program, from the 25 adult and five high school student volunteers, to the Northeast Ohio STEM Alliance, the Hudson Middle School administration, and the Hudson Kiwanis Foundation.”