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DHS students take 1st, 3rd place in Science Olympiad

Dickinson High School students won first and third place in the Science Olympiad and will participate in the state competition. (Submitted photo)

Dickinson High School took two teams to this year's Science Olympiad, competing against 18 other high schools. One team took first place; the other, third. Along with the other high schools in the top five, they will go on to compete in the state Science Olympiad.

"I compare Science Olympiad to a track meet," said Dena Venneman, science club advisor. "There's many different events that you compete in and you get points for your team, so there's individual awards and then there's team awards."

The event gives students an opportunity for hands-on learning.

"The events are made of some testing events and some building events," Venneman said. "It teaches kids 21st century skills as far as designing and redesigning and failing and figuring out why you failed ... major critical thinking skills. They have to communicate with one another in their events."

She said the events are very STEM-oriented and, thus, include many types of sciences, technology, engineering and math.

For one of this year's building events, students had to create a mousetrap vehicle.

"A mousetrap is basically what initiates the movement of your car. ... Once it hits a point, it's supposed to stop and reverse," Venneman said. "You don't know how far they'll want you to have the car move, so when you get there, they'll say the car needs to move 50 centimeters. Then you have to be able to change some things on your car to where when it sets off, it will move 50 centimeters."

The students who participated in the Science Olympiad are in the school's science club and meet once a week to prepare. Venneman considers herself more of a facilitator than a coach. She schedules students' events.

"They're the ones that research and print things off and find stuff online," she said. "They learn as much as they can about their one topic on a short amount of time."

Students know what two or four one-hour events they're participating in ahead of time, the topics for their tests, and are told what they must build for the events.

"They just don't always know distances or times that they're going to have to do it, so usually their builds have to be a little bit flexible. That's where the math comes into play. They do a lot of trials and figure out different things. They can do quick calculations at the event," she said.