Writer: Shravya Jasti
The South Florida Regional Science Bowl is a grassroots organization on the UM campus that is committed to giving high school and middle school students across the South Florida region the opportunity to compete in a trivia-style competition, with round robins in topics ranging from mathematics and biology to organic chemistry and earth sciences. Winners of the South Florida competition qualify to compete in the National Science Bowl (NSB) in Washington, D.C.. Sathvik Palakurthy, who is currently a junior at UM, founded the chapter at UM because having competed in National Science Bowl as a high school student, he wanted to bring the competition to the local Miami area to inspire students to become more involved in harnessing their passion for STEM. This year, the endless preparation by the NSB E-Board produced a very successful turnout on February 24th as 33 top-tier teams competed neck to neck for the grand prize of traveling in an all-expense paid trip to Washington D.C.
The enthusiasm and anxiety that each student exuded throughout the competition, specifically in the later rounds, was palpable as the audience of coordinators, parents, fellow teammates, and coaches grew larger and more tense by the minute. The University community was more than eager to host the students as more than 60 college student volunteers donated their Saturday to help out. Each round was coordinated by three of these volunteers: a moderator to read the questions and answer choices, a science judge to control the competition, and a timekeeper. The students were asked a series of questions in two eight minute rounds with a two minute break in between. The day was not simply about science, as the students enjoyed their break periods interacting with their peers and playing ultimate frisbee with students from other schools.
To get a first-hand recounting of the competition, we asked Felipe Parodi, who is the regional coordinator and a junior at UM, about his experience running this year’s competition. He exclaimed, “The third annual South Florida High School Science Bowl ran like a well-oiled machine! These high school students train all-year long for this one-day competition and it’s inspiring to hear how appreciative they are towards the end of the day. This event wouldn’t have happened without the help of our executive board, our passionate college student leaders, and the coaches!”
By encouraging students across the South Florida area to pursue their passions in science-related fields, the South Florida Regional Science Bowl is a club that is breaking barriers across the region by motivating high schoolers to engage, learn, and apply their scientific knowledge.
On the morning of February 17th, young scientists from 22 middle and high schools in Miami-Dade County came together to compete against each other at the University of Miami’s first regional Science Olympiad Tournament. This year’s Science Olympiad was nothing short of a success; from crime busters to building battery buggies, middle school and high school students had the opportunity to experience a full day of STEM like never before. Co-Chairs, Siri Choragudi and Ankit Shah, brought this event to the university due to the fact that they had participated in it throughout their own middle and high school years. They attribute this very event to their interest in science today.
Science Olympiad is a non-profit organization with a purpose to spark a passion for STEM in students early on and have them experience science at the collegiate level. Teams, designated based on grade level, chose three events they were interested in and competed in them for awards. By providing recognition for achievement, students are motivated to excel in the events they are interested in. Examples of events include actual chemistry pre and post labs, allowing the pupils to be introduced to lab techniques that they may not have the chance to encounter in high school. This mock setting givesstudents an idea of what their future may hold if they pursue a career in science. Ivana Fegson from Everglades High School said, “This event secured my decision to continue a profession in STEM.”
Students competed in an array of subjects such as anatomy, chemistry, earth science, engineering, geology, genetics, and physics. Skills in critical thinking and teamwork were put to the test as these were needed to move forward and win the competition. Contests were in the form of written, oral, and practical exams along with integrated events. For example, in the “Write it, Do it” contest, one team wrote the directions of the experiment and the other team had to perform the experiment. By bridging the gap between communication and science, events like this are eliminating problems that are seen today in STEM. “The science we are doing is important, but it is also important to be able to communicate and articulate that science,” said event supervisor Anoop Desai.
By holding events like this we are encouraging students to be excited for the future of STEM. The most exhilarating part of the event was the award ceremony. Students were sitting at the edge of their seats, anticipating the results, and became ecstatic when their team was called. In the words of event advisor Dr. Leslie Knecht “I felt like the students did a good job organizing it, and the kids got a lot out of it. It was invigorating to see so many students into science, and thinking outside the box.” As a community we, at the University of Miami, are glad to foster knowledge into the next generation of scientist and hope that this event can continue to be held at our university.