PROVIDENCE, R.I. — Kids from around the state gathered at Rhode Island College on Saturday to build the strongest wooden towers, show off vehicles propelled by mousetraps and test their knowledge about everything from rocks to birds.
It was all part of the annual Science Olympiad, pitting schools against one another in a competition of ingenuity and brains and nerdy bona fides.
In part, it’s serious competition: Coming into Saturday’s event, Barrington High School had taken first place in the older division seven straight years, one of its coaches said, propelling it to nationals, where it’s been moving slowly up the ranks. It most recently took 34th place out of more than 60 schools, but the goal is the top of the game.
“You can really see the kids’ strengths come through,” said Barrington co-coach and teacher Sonalya Jayasuriya.
But even those with lesser ambitions than nationwide domination were there because, in the words of Chariho High School 10th-grader Riley Lenihan, “We like science.”
Or, put another way: They were there “to entertain ourselves.” Ninth-grader Adam Tarasuk, also of Chariho, said this with a shrug as he snapped a mousetrap in the RIC cafeteria.
No school credit at stake here — just a balsa wood tower that withstood more weight than the Chariho kids had expected, and a mousetrap vehicle that looked a bit worse for the wear. When the kids saw what it was up against, the vehicle was withdrawn from competition. But Noah Ligouri-Bills, a student leader along with Adam’s sister Anna Tarasuk, said he was happy with how they performed in the Earth science-focused test.
Science “is a growing field,” Chariho coach and teacher Lindsay Parks said. “It’s involved in more than kids realize — engineering, critical thinking skills, problem solving, teamwork.”
The event lasted about half the day. And when the dust cleared, once again, Barrington was on top of the high school division, headed back to nationals. Smithfield High School took second place in the older division, and East Greenwich High School took third, event organizers said. In the middle school division, Gallagher Middle School in Smithfield took first place for a spot in nationals, with Warren’s Kickemuit Middle School in second and Barrington Middle School in third.
Nationals will be held in Colorado. Once again, Barrington will be there, although not with all its seniors, since prom is the same day. No matter: a day of science on Saturday in Providence was fun.
“It’s really fun to hang out with friends,” said Barrington senior Andrew Cooke while taking a break from tossing a football on the quad. “It’s stressful, but an adrenaline rush.”
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