Asheville City Schools
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Montford North Star Academy Students Take Top Honors in North Carolina Science Olympiad Event
On Saturday, Montford North Star Academy 8th Graders Liam Burton and Cole Owings earned top honors in the state as part of the North Carolina Science Olympiad’s Electric Wright Stuff competition.
Science Olympiad is one of the nation’s most prestigious STEM competitions. Events cover a wide range of scientific disciplines such as Anatomy & Physiology, Code Busters, Disease Detectives, Meteorology, Ornithology, Ping Pong Parachute and Rocks & Minerals.
For their event, Burton and Owings built a model plane out of balsa wood, customizing and optimizing its design through trial and error. Ultimately, their plane stayed in the air for 1 minute and 4 seconds - longer than any other team’s.
“It was nerve-racking,” said Burton. “During the test flight, we snapped one of the wing spars and had to quickly repair it for our real flight. So, we were really surprised to find out we won.”
The pair competed as part of Montford’s Varsity Science Olympiad Team, who previously won first place in the Region, and finished 22nd in all of North Carolina.
The Varsity Team is comprised of Ava Claire Baggett, Liam Burton, Lainie Cipriano, Andrew Engels, Everett Foo, Chloe Jackson, Eliza Jackson, Allison Kirshner, Harrison Kirshner, Meghan Leahy, Maddie Lewis, Cole Owings, Cru Petersen, William Nunan and Noah Senzon. In addition to Ms. Ross who served as Team Advisor, Alison Gooding, Thomas House, Kris Moore and Steven Sarnie volunteered their support as coaches.
This year, MNSA had three teams and took top honors in both Varsity and Junior Varsity competitions for all of Western North Carolina.
“It’s nice to have trophies, but really it’s an experience that these students will remember forever,” said Gretchen Ross, the team’s advisor and MNSA’s 6th Grade Science Teacher.
The 2021-2022 school year marks the team’s fifth year competing and the first time making it to states. Ross said it was especially meaningful for our 8th Grades because of all they’ve experienced as part of the pandemic.
“I can’t wait to see what this experience inspires in them because that’s really what Science Olympiad is about,” said Ross. “There’s going to be so many opportunities in the future, and I’m excited to see where they take this.”
Applications for Montford’s Science Olympiad teams first came out in September, with tryouts occurring in October. Ultimately, 45 students received spots. To compete at such a high level, they spent months practicing, researching, creating study guides, delving into data, building vehicles and bridges, testing production and having them fail before ultimately succeeding.
“It’s stressful but also really fun to see who built the best thing or enjoys the most about a subject during competition,” added Owings.
As for what’s next, Montford 8th Graders are hoping to create a Science Olympiad Team once they get to Asheville High School and SILSA.
“Everyone in middle school wants to continue what we’re doing. We want to have an opportunity to compete once we get to high school, so we’re hoping to find an advisor,” said Owings.