Continuing a three-year streak, the Palo Alto High School Science Olympiad Team placed second out of 28 teams at the North California Science Olympiad State competition on April 16, in Turlock.
The team fell to Mira Loma High School from Sacramento by 27 points, according to sophomore Celine Wang, a member of the green team, or varsity team. The SciOly competition is split into two teams: the green team, akin to a varsity team, and the white team, or the junior varsity team. Except for one year, Mira Loma has consistently won first at states since 2005, according to their SciOly wiki page. The only time this changed was in 2013, when Paly beat Mira Loma and advanced to the Science Olympiad National Tournament and placed 16th. According to Paly SciOly’s wiki page, Paly has placed in the top three teams in States since 2010.
“Mira Loma is an incredibly strong school,” Wang said. “It is second in the nation as of last year. Considering we ended up pretty close to them is an achievement in itself.”
According to Wang, the goal of teams at SciOly competitions is to get the lowest score possible, similar to golf. Higher-placing teams receive fewer points, while lower-placing teams successively receive higher scores. Competition events consist of testing, lab work and building, where teams build devices before the competition which are then tested onsite. Events range from building a robot arm to testing identities of unknown powders.
“Although the team was somewhat disappointed that we were still stuck in a frustrating second place, we still improved from last year by three points,” sophomore green team member Chloe Hong said. “In fact, this is the smallest point gap between us and Mira Loma that we have had in all the years that we have placed second at States.”
Despite the frustration, the team did well overall and finished in the top five in many events, according to senior team captain James Wang.
“Event-wise, we did well across the board during States,” James Wang said. “Everyone’s preparation for their tests and builds really showed during the awards ceremony. I believe we placed 5th or better in 19 out of the 23 events.”
With many seniors leaving next year, some club members have voiced their anxiety about the team’s future success, as Hong says that the green team will lose half of its members. SciOly adviser Ron Bowditch says he is not worried about filling the holes.
“We have promising, bright and hard-working students coming up the ranks,” Bowditch said. “The thing that is going to be different is that we are going to have a lot of students that are now on the Jordan SciOly team. Jordan did not have a SciOly team up until three years ago, so we will have a few students who were on the [Jordan SciOly] team before, giving them more experience with the competition.”
According to James Wang, the next step would be to find adult mentors who could help students study for their events.
“There is a huge wealth of science expertise in Palo Alto that we have not really tapped [into] yet,” James Wang said. “I am sure that mentors would really speed up our studying and engineering processes.”
Paly’s competitor, Mira Loma, has various adult mentors that work with students one-on-one, according to Bowditch. However, he does not see Paly heading in that direction.
“I personally do not really like that idea,” Bowditch said. “I think the team should be completely student-run and student-focused; so when they win, it will be that much sweeter.”
Members are excited for next season and for what it may hold.
“I am really sad the season’s over, especially since we’ll be losing so many amazing seniors, but I cannot wait for the all the fun times next season,” Celine Wang said.