February 3, 2015 High school science olympiads showed determination, intuition, and savvy as they competed under pressure of the parameters during the premiere science competition on Saturday, February 1 at Byram Hills High School.
Biology and honors chemistry teacher Evan Horowitz founded the Science Olympiad program at Byram Hills in 2009. Byram Hills placed second, Horowitz said, and this was the team’s highest finish at the Lower Hudson Valley regional competition.
First place was awarded to Ardsley High School. In third place was Fox Lane High School, followed by Tappan Zee High School, John Jay and sixth place was awarded to Pelham Memorial High School. The top five teams will compete at the State Competition at LeMoyne College in Syracuse on March 13 and 14. Byram Hills B Team also had a great showing, said Horowitz, coming in 12th place.
Forty teams from Rockland and Westchester County competed in three categories of science disciplines. The lineup of events included written exams; assembly and dissection of objects; and building and testing operational systems. Competitors shared the compassion for science as they take their classroom skills and knowledge, and apply them to the task at hand.
Peter Manos and Julia Szurnicki of Suffern High School Team B worked on Air Trajectory. The first objective was to use their handmade apparatus to hit two targets placed at two intervals at a distance of two and six meters. Their ball hit within 50 centimeters of the target, which permitted them to ask for a target shot into a small bucket. The bucket shot is worth an additional 200 points if the ball lands inside, said Manos, or one hundred points if it makes contact with the edge. Easier said than done.
Manos and Szurnicki did not hit the bucket shots. Precision is essential. They were slightly over each time, but were satisfied with the close results. Manos described the physics of their apparatus. The air chamber is compressed by falling weight that is attached to an arm. The air chamber was made of a toilet plunger attached to a tapered barrel which was made of a vacuum cleaner tube. The air pressure was controlled by how far the plunger was pushed in. They also had an angle meter that was used to line up the aim. Their machine could reach a far distance, they said, but a longer distance sacrificed the control of accuracy. And this competition was about a short and accurate projection. They had eight minutes to set up, adjust and calibrate, with a maximum of two shots at the targets.
Fox Lane’s Wright Stuff Team A were Juniors Sajay Srivastava and Joe Fetter. Their plane weighed in at 8.3 grams, just over the minimum weight of 8 grams. The light-weight plane proved to be the winner of the day with the two runs of 42 seconds each, separated by just .2 seconds.
“The planes easily crack on harsh impact landings,” said Fetter. “But it’s nothing that crazy glue can’t fix.”
The center of gravity is the essence of the Wright Stuff planes, which were made of balsa wood, thin paper, rubber bands, and propellers. The weight specs, as well as wingspan and length, were mandatory.
The Fox Lane juniors said they tested the plane in their gym for two days where they made adjustments by adding small pieces of clay. The plane was going straight and they needed it to turn. “When we added clay, it would just dive,” says Fetter. Saturday was the first of the few times that the plane began to go into a high circular, gliding motion.
Alexander Reidfsnyder, senior at Rye High School, wanted a bridge that would survive the maximum weight of 15 kilograms of sand. In Bridge Building, sand is slowly added to a suspended bucket below the bridge. The scoring is calculated by the ratio of the mass that the bridge holds, said Reidfsnyder, which is then divided by the weight of the bridge.
Since his bridge was heavier, Reidfsnyder said, he received a somewhat lower score than a lighter bridge that didn’t hold the entire 15 kilograms. He said he might have over-engineered the design, and if had another chance, he would have designed a less massive bridge. Since the competition, he said he had stood on the bridge which held his weight. Many of the other bridges snapped under the 15 kilogram test. Reidfsnyder is an experienced olympiad; in the past he has competed in his personal favorite of Robotic Arm, and the Glider.
May Neils, a parent from Spring Valley High School, is also a Teachers’ Assistant, and she assists Duane Stillwell, the Spring Valley Science Olympiad Advisor. The students meet everyday after school for a couple of hours, said Neils. The Spring Valley team was competing in the Scrambler where an egg was attached to the tip of a small handmade wooden vehicle on wheels.
The model car had to travel two lengths--10 meters and 11 meters -- with a barrier at the end which would crush the egg if the model hit the wall. Spring Valley scored 36 points which was a good score.
Juniors from New Rochelle, Nina Riemershmid and Diana Calautti’s Rube Goldberg contraption, was made of mechanical, chemical, thermal, and visible light components. Their device operated under a domino effect that completed a simple task with a series of golf balls which fell into scoring jugs, said Riemershmid.
Two balls were set in position and the third ball was dropped into a jug that sounded a buzzer and started the domino effect. After the initial ball was dropped, everything else was done autonomously. But their invention had one glitch that they couldn’t work out. Fortunately they were allowed to interfere, but that would cause them to lose some points. But the goal was to keep the machine running.
Time management was Riemershmid’s most valuable experience. She said they spent more time researching and modifying the design. Calautti said she learned about engineering and the way things work by trial and error. “Something that goes on in your head does not always work in the real world.” She added, “This didn’t work, so we asked how can we fix the problem?” Calautti said she learned about problem solving, circuits and mechanics. They agreed that their biggest challenge was not to get too frustrated.
Horowitz said Byram Hills A team received medals in 13 of the 19 events they competed in and the Byram Hills B team received medals in 7 of the 19 events.
Congratulations to all the olympiads.
Byram Hills’ medal winners were: A Team
Kevin Chang and James Bremner- Air Trajectory (5th) Nicole Kim and Miriam Lachs - Anatomy and Physiology (2nd) Audrey Saltzman and Billy Markowitz - Astronomy (3rd) Kevin Chang and Carl Ranieri - Bridge Building (6th) James Bremner and Billy Markowitz - Bungee Drop (2nd) Nicole Kim and Ella Taubenfeld - Cell Biology (5th) Kevin Chang and Lizzy Kingsley - Chemistry Lab (7th) Sarah Crucilla and Andrea Cornelius- Dynamic planet (5th) Sarah Crucilla and Andrea Cornelius - Forensics (1st) Miriam Lachs and Andrea Cornelius - Fossils (6th) Audrey Saltzman and Yasamin Bayley - Invasive Species (1st) Nicole Kim and Lizzy Kingsley - Mission Possible (3rd) Yasamin Bayley and Carl Ranieri - Scrambler (1st)
B Team Jared Okun and Dominick Rowan - Air Trajectory (9th) Chad Schwam and Noah Koster - Cell Biology (6th) Emily Resnik - Entomology Emily Resnik and Ramy Berenblum - Forensics (7th) Jordan Levin and Jared Okun - Game On (1st) Timmy Eng and Ramy Berenblum - Geological Mapping (2nd) Timmy Eng and Jonathan Mui - It's About Time (1st)