Science Olympiad goes to MIT


Story by Minami Guido, Managing Editor

Early on the morning of Friday, Jan. 22, Boca High’s Science Olympiad’s Team 1 and Team 2 met their coaches, Mr. and Mrs. Benskin, at the Ft. Lauderdale airport to begin their trip to Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). Although the three day trip began at 5:30 in the morning, preparation for the MIT Invitational started as early as the summer before the school year. This invitational was the second of the school year for Team 1 after Texas in November, and the difficulty of the competition put their skills to the test.

Team 1 consists of fifteen individuals who are all veterans of Science Olympiad, while Team 2 has both veterans and dedicated first year members. The teams were tentatively decided at the beginning of the school year, and each team member was given anywhere from two to five events so that the entire team would compete in all 23 events. Most events allow for two members per team to compete, with some events requiring three members.


“It ultimately comes down to personal interest in the topic or event that they are in; sometimes students have to step up to fill in gaps for events, but usually a student chooses if they are a builder, studier, or a mixture of both,” said Mr. Benskin.

Once the teams landed in Boston on Friday, they had the night to study for the long day of competitions ahead and perfect their devices. Every event has a specific rank and number of points awarded to each team, with the lowest number of points going to the highest ranking team.

“For instance, if an individual in one even got tenth place, then their team receives ten points. If an individual gets first place in an event, it’s one point for their team, and you want to lowest point total of all the events,” said Mr. Benskin.

By the end of the competition, Team 1 finished in 10th place, and Team 2 came in 24th place overall against 52 teams, 27 of which were nationally ranked teams. Although MIT was an invitational and the ranks do not count nationally, it served as a good way for the Teams to get a feel for Nationals.

“MIT allowed us to put to practice what we’ve learned in school, and the environment of competition puts in perspective the competitors that we are going to go up against if we make it to Nationals. It allows us to practice under timed pressure, so I do think it is beneficial for us as students to be able to go to invitations like MIT,” said junior and veteran member Andy Voyer.

One of Voyer’s highest scoring events was in Bridge Building with his partner, junior David Faris. The two veterans on Team 1 used their engineering skills to construct a bridge out of balsa wood. In the event, a bucket is attached to the bridge and the bucket is then filled with sand to test how heavy the bridge can hold. Voyer and Faris broke their personal record and their bridge, which weighed as much as a nickel, was able to sustain the maximum weight of 33 pounds.


“I enjoy building things with my hands and actually applying the physics that I learn in class because engineering is something I want to pursue in college, and I do enjoy my build events more than my study events because of that,” said Voyer.

While most members of Science Olympiad tend to favor either build or study events, Voyer’s teammate, junior Justin Greene, classifies Voyer as a “rare studier and builder.” Even though Greene started out in Science Olympiad with a building event, he soon found out that he much prefers study events.

“I think that’s one of the greatest parts of Science Olympiad; you can find what you’re passionate about and you learn as much as you want to learn. I found out through being in the club that I really like biology, specifically biochemistry, and nanotechnology,” said Greene.

Similar to most Science Olympiad members, Greene competes in events that cater to his personal interests. In one of his events, Protein Modeling, Greene is able to learn more about biology along with his partners, senior Noel Picinich and junior Yuria Utsumi. In one of the few three person events, students must create a model of a specific protein before the competition, during the competition, and take a test on both of these proteins as well as general knowledge. The trio did so well in this event that they placed second overall at MIT.

“Protein modeling will definitely help me with the biology aspect that I want to continue studying in college,” said Utsumi.

While protein modeling was one of Utsumi’s favorite events at MIT, her partner Noel Picinich most enjoys working on Robot Arm, one of Picinich’s five events.

“My favorite event is currently Robot Arm because I love the electrical components and the coding that’s involved. In order for Robot Arm to work, we use a specific microprocessor to operate a ‘master-slave arm system,’ where the master arm is a small replica of the actual robotic arm that acts as a controller for the arm to move,” said Picinich.


Picinich first joined Science Olympiad in the middle of her sophomore year and this is her second year on Team 1. By being in the club she has found that she is very enthusiastic about electrical engineering and wants to take what she learned about it to Cornell, where she will be enrolling this upcoming fall semester.

Because of their significant improvement from last year’s competition at MIT, both the Science Olympiad teams feel more confident and prepared for their next competition. With the Regionals competition just about twenty days from when the teams came back from Boston, they have limited time to update and fix their build events and study for their academic events. While students are usually encouraged to stay after school to work on their events, as it gets nearer to the date of a competition, students ten to stay until nine or ten at night.

“The people you are competing against are also your friends, and we all help each other to do our best. Being in this club has really been a great experience,” said Greene.

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