University of Alabama at Birmingham undergraduate honors students are organizing the regional arm of a national Science Olympiad in which more than 200 Alabama high-school students will compete for top prizes Feb. 19, 2011.
“We are most likely the first tournament ever to be organized and implemented by students alone,” said Charlotte Mae Kent, UAB’s Science and Technology Honors student and one of the tournament directors. “When outsiders find out that we are undergraduates, they are shocked — because it is hard to convince faculty to run an event like this.” Students Evan Colmenares and Meredith Hubbard join Kent in facilitating this event.
Science Olympiad engages nearly 6,000 students across the country in rigorous, standards-based challenges. Alabama student teams from regional school systems in Birmingham, Dora, Alexander City and Montgomery will compete in events that emphasize teamwork and group participation. They will conduct experiments, take written tests and compete head-to-head with their inventions.
“Science Olympiad is a great opportunity to learn more about science and engineering while having fun,” Kent said. “Hopefully, this opportunity will enable more students to fall in love with science and choose to make their career in a scientific field.”
The UAB Science and Technology Honors curriculum requires its students to lead a science project. This year’s group chose to host the regional Olympiad as a service to area high schools.
“With the rising cost of gasoline and budget cuts within public school systems, we realized there was a need to have a centrally located tournament in Alabama,” Kent said. Past Olympiad competitions were held in Tuscaloosa, Huntsville and Mobile.
To raise operating funds, the UAB students wrote grants that were sponsored by Alabama Power, Vulcan Materials and the Alabama Section of the American Chemical Society. They also raised $1,000 to award a scholarship to underwrite the costs for a deserving team that lacked financial resources to attend.
“We want students to leave UAB with a better sense of the awesome science that occurs here,” Kent said. “Most high-school students do not get to go inside of a college chemistry lab, much less use one before entering college. This is a wonderful opportunity to showcase the beautiful labs we have at UAB.”
“I am so impressed with this group of students,” said Diane Tucker, Ph.D., director of the UAB Science and Technology Honors Program. “It is a tribute to their professionalism.”