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Sandy Journal

Waterford students find passion in science, take third in state Science Olympiad

May 30, 2022 05:06PM ● By Julie Slama

By Julie Slama | [email protected]

It was the fourth competition of the year, but on the bus ride that early Saturday morning in April there were some students with a little bit of nerves as they rode to the state competition in Cedar City.

Waterford School senior Allison Cao was determined to learn bird calls and kept repeating listening to two of them, trying to distinguish the difference before the Science Olympiad ornithology contest. She and her partner junior Luke Martindale had placed in the top two in the last two tournaments with their knowledge about North American birds.

“Of course, when they got to the test, there were no bird sounds on it,” Waterford Science Olympiad adviser Daniel Osipovitch said with a laugh. “It’s amazing to see the effort that students put in to become experts in their events. There’s a story behind each event and our students as to the effort they put into it and where they’re at in their schooling. It’s just amazing to see those students take that extra step. That’s one thing I love about Science Olympiad is that their interest can really blossom, and they can really focus on areas that really excited them.”

Even though they prepared for it, state wasn’t without mishaps, including in the bridge building competition, which they had won in the two previous competitions.

The competition has teams design and build a boomilever, a structure meant to hang on a wall while supporting a heavy load underneath, to achieve the highest structural efficiency.

“Our big snafu was our bridge broke, which it had never done before. It got bumped into while they were trying it, which caused it to break. And in our ping pong parachute contest, the parachute broke a little while testing. We actually had a great test run and then in the actual event, we ran into some issues,” he said.

But it was without worry. Waterford won the bridge and ornithology contests and took second in ping pong parachute.

Osipovitch said Waterford prides itself on a ninth-grade bird project.

“We always say if there’s one thing we’re going to win, it needs to be ornithology,” he said.

Overall, Waterford took third place, edging out nearby Hillcrest High.

While only the 15-member Waterford varsity team competed at state, they took their 15-member JV squad to other competitions.

The first contest of the year was a national invitational supported by Cal Tech that was virtual—and like many online events, had a few hiccups with technology. At that online January contest, Waterford placed 108th out of 236 high school and college teams.

In early February, Waterford competed in 20 events at Centennial Junior High in Davis County, placing in 10 of them.

Before state, they finished second overall at the competition held at Snow College.

But Science Olympiad is more than just competition.

Osipovitch said students are learning to work together, learn outside of the classroom, take ownership of their learning and projects and learn leadership.

“Science Olympiad gives students a chance to dabble in some engineering stuff without being fully committed to our robotics program, like it gave them a huge opportunity to build the bridge. Our kids really took on their projects, the building ones and the tests. They researched and prepared for events. It was pretty awesome to see students take that on themselves; they took ownership for their own work,” he said, adding that some students may find new passions by exploring other fields of science outside of the classroom.

Osipovitch also said that by working together, they learned from one another.

“I had a 10th grader in chem lab who knows more of the practical lab side of chemistry, but not as much of the theoretical,” he said, then paired sophomore Gus Gibbon with senior and team captain Devon Tonneson, who has taken AP chemistry. “The 12th grader really knew the mathematical side and the problem solving of chemistry. They worked together with each of them having a set of skills and they both learned from each other. We also have experts in our science department faculty who all know about the topics which is awesome, so our students can go to them and really ask deep questions.”

Under Tonneson’s leadership, along with the help of three other seniors on the team, they built an entire Canvas course for the team and checked in with students.

“It was mostly independent preparation. Students would come in and ask for help if they needed it. These students find the test taking can be fun and they enjoy the challenge. They enjoy the process of taking what they know and expanding on it. It’s funny because they would never say that about a test in school,” he said.

Junior Rohit Singh chose several contests this year because he wanted to learn more about those topics—ones that have helped him decide to pursue a career in neuroscience.

“I’ve always been super passionate about medicine, so I thought this would be a good opportunity for me to explore my interests,” he said. “Science is one of my favorite subjects and the subjects at school are set, so there really isn’t any flexibility with what they teach and what I can learn. So, Science Olympiad is a way for me to channel my creativity and passion to learn about other topics outside of class. It’s just a really interesting and fun way to experience a variety of different fields of science.”

While the team started about five years ago with just five members, the program is growing despite the fluctuation of online and in-person, Osipovitch said.

“We have students who have done it before so they can help the newer students and pass the torch down; it’s really important for a program like this,” he said. “Next year we’re looking to start a middle school team and get them invested in it.”

Singh, who competed at several competitions this year including state, plans to be Waterford’s Science Olympiad captain next year.

“A lot of our middle schoolers and high schoolers have a passion toward science, so I want to be able to help coach them to see what their interests are and what events they want to try. Our coach, Dr. O, he’s truly passionate about the students and expanding the team. He makes sure every student is included in the club and has given us a lot of opportunities to explore what science is like. He lets us be in events we’re interested in; his priority isn’t about how well we’ll do, but rather how much we’re learning about the subject.”

Singh hopes to continue offering his team resources on their Canvas page, hold meetings more often so they bond as a team, and have other faculty share their knowledge beyond classroom subjects with team members.

“I like our team; we’re like a community,” he said. “We’re all super passionate about science and are willing to help each other.”

Osipovitch is pumped about the outlook of his Science Olympiad team.

“We’re super excited about this whole program,” he said. “It’s been a really great way to involve students in science more.”




Waterford School’s Science Olympiad results:


National online tournament: Waterford top 50 finishes: 40th, ornithology; 41st, remote sensing; 45 th, cell biology.


Davis County tournament

1st, Bridge Building: freshman Connor Greally and sophomore Casey Dittmer

1st, Write It Do It: seniors Roman Schlichter and Finn Pead

2nd, Astronomy: Schlichter and sophomore Niko Weaver

2nd, Chemistry Lab: senior Devon Tonneson and sophomore Gus Gibbon

2nd, Wright Stuff: (JV team) sophomore Avin Agarwal, sophomore Sofi Leveratto and freshman Clayton Wright

2nd, It's About Time: Schlichter and junior Carson Wright

2nd, Ornithology: senior Allison Cao and junior Luke Martindale

2nd, Rock and Minerals: Cao and Pead

3rd, Codebusters: Schlichter and senior Avery Carlson

3rd, Green Generation: Martindale and Agarwal


Snow College

1st, Bridge Building: Greally and junior Sally Scofield

1st, Detector Building: Gibbon and Weaver

1st, Ornithology: Cao and Martindale

1st, Remote Sensing: senior Emma Greally and Gibbon

1st, Trajectory: junior Julia Ostrander and Agarwal, supported by Tonneson and Carlson

2nd, Ping Pong Parachute: Wright

2nd, Wi-Fi Lab: sophomore Jagger Winkler and Martindale

3rd, Anatomy and Physiology: junior Rohit Singh and sophomore Steven Tingey

3rd, Astronomy: Weaver and Ostrander

3rd, Dynamic Planet: Emma Greally and sophomore Luke Pead

3rd, Environmental Chemistry: Singh and Scofield

3rd, Wright Stuff: Agarwal and Wright

3rd, Forensic Science: (JV team): sophomores Gia Weaver and Mia Knoll



1st, Bridge Building: Greally and Scofield

1st, Disease Detectives: Pead and Ostrander

1st, Ornithology: Cao and Martindale

2nd, Astronomy: Schlichter and Ostrander

2nd, Chem Lab: Tonneson and Gibbon

2nd, Ping Pong Parachute: Wright

2nd, Remote Sensing: Emma Greally and Gibbon

2nd, Write It Do It: Pead and Schlichter