Fifteen students, one state championship and six medals at Nationals. Kilmer Middle School’s Division B Science Olympiad team has set their bar with the past year’s achievements.
On May 20-21, a team of students from Kilmer represented Virginia at the National Science Olympiad tournament. In the tournament, held at the University of Wisconsin at Madison, the eleven eighth-graders and four seventh-graders earned a 19th place finish out of 60 competing teams.
Team member and seventh-grader Alison Luckett explained how her team overcame some challenging odds to get to nationals: the Kilmer team beat longtime state champion Longfellow Middle School, placing first at the state tournament. "It was pretty cool. I didn’t actually expect it," said seventh-grader Dhriti Vij.
"Originally it was kind of like a state of shock: this is our second year as a team, so we never really considered that we’d be going to nationals as seventh-graders," said fellow seventh-grader Jordan Ganley.
Students felt positive about their first nationals experience, saying there seemed less tension than in previous tournament experiences. "I guess that everyone there figures, ‘Wow we got this far; I guess we can finally relax a little bit,’" said Alison Luckett. Alexis Gillmore, an 8th-grader chimed in: "You just go and do however well you’re gonna do. It’s fine."
There were 26 events at nationals this year, 23 of which contribute to a team’s overall score, according to the Kilmer team’s assistant coordinator, Samia Noursi. Each of the 23 events was scored from 1 to 59 and then all 23 scores were totaled: the lowest scored team won, Noursi explained.
The Kilmer team earned medals in 6 of 26 events at the national tournament and placed within the top 20 on 15 of 26 events.
Event requirements range from building to taking tests. Seventh-grader, Arthur Tisseront displayed a cheat sheet covered with writing and charts, explaining that his team had used it in the Anatomy event—an event that requires students to take an exam. "At nationals it was a 144 question test, so if you just relied on this, there’s no way you would’ve been able to finish," he said.
The Junkyard Challenge event, on the other hand, required eighth-graders Alex Nelson and Jaisohn Kim to build a prearranged object with materials they had brought with them. In this case, that object, according to Samie Noursi, was a catapult.
"I think getting time management together was the hardest because I had so many events," said Jaisohn Kim when recollecting his most challenging part of the year for the Science Olympiad. Eduard Danalache, another eighth-grader had a similar observation, "The challenging part is probably how much time it takes because it takes lots of dedication."
"It’s a lot of fun," Vikram Sardana, an eighth-grader, said. Sardana went on to explain how the event, Disease Detectives, had allowed him to study epidemiology. "It’s a topic that’s not covered in school at all. It’s just not in the curriculum."
Students recalled how they got involved in the Science Olympiad. Kunal Shroff, a seventh-grader, reminisced how the Science Olympiad had been unavailable at his elementary school: he started when he came to Kilmer.
Looking back, eighth-grader David Noursi explained that a teacher from elementary school had encouraged his participation. "She thought I would do really well in it; so in seventh grade I did it and I continued in eighth grade."
The eighth-grade students of the team are moving on to high schools including James Madison High School and Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology. Some, such as Vikram Sardana, expressed interest in continuing with Science Olympiad through high school. Sardana said, "I do think that I’m going to continue it. It’s been a lot of fun so far."