Merrimack Science Olympiad team brings home gold

Friday, April 19, 2013



The Merrimack High School Science Olympiad team, led by Merrimack science teacher Sean Muller, competed in the state competition April 6 and managed to bring home the gold for the fifth time.

The competition held annually at Saint Anselm College, started in 2008 with only two teams participating. Fifteen teams competed from 12 different high schools competed this year.

Thirty-four of the 69 medals awarded at this year’s competition went to Merrimack High students. All were won by the four sub-teams that comprise the high school’s Science Olympiad team.

Ben Francis, a junior, competed in four events for the Merrimack Science Olympiad team.

“I work with my partners to perform the best that we can at every competition. I also help the team fundraise and help others on the team study and/or build devices for build events,” he said of his involvement on the team leading up to competitions.

Francis admits that at times, nerves can get in the way of performance.

“My favorite moment of the tournament happened in the first few minutes of my first event, Thermodynamics. Going in to take the test, I was nervous and wondering if I had prepared enough. Within the first few minutes of taking the test, I realized that I knew most of the material and it was quite the confidence boost. The rest of the day I did not feel that nervous,” he said.

Nerves didn’t hold back anyone as Merrimack earned 18 first-place medals, 11 second-place medals, and five third place medals in the 23 events that the teams competed in. As a result, the Merrimack Science Olympiad team won first, second, fifth and 15th place. The first-place team scored 70 more points than the second-place team and the second team scored nine more points than the third-place team. 

Jake Grist, a senior, and team captain and a member of the “A” team participated in four events: Material Science, Gravity Vehicle, Rocks and Minerals, and Experimental Design.

“For me the win means I ended on a high note. My last states ever was the team’s best performance yet and I’m proud to have been a part of it,” Grist said.

The Science Olympiad is an Olympic-style competition that consists of 23 events covering the fields of biology, physics, chemistry, geology and engineering. Events include Anatomy and Physiology, Chemistry Lab, Remote Sensing, Physics Lab, Robot Arm, Gravity Vehicle, Experimental Design, and Technical Problem Solving. This competition allows students to apply what they have learned throughout their academic career to solving unique problems and to be recognized for their achievements in the fields of science and engineering. Merrimack High School students start preparing for the state competition in September by studying, taking practice exams, researching, designing and testing prototypes.

The state win allows the team to move on to the national competition. This year, there will be 60 teams from all over the country competing in the national high school competition at Wright State University in Dayton, Ohio. This will be Merrimack’s fifth trip to nationals. During the past four years the team has steadily improved from 51st place in 2009 to 31st place in 2012. 

“It’s always hard to say how we’ll do at nationals since the competition is so intense, but I like to think we’ll do well. I’d love to see us finally break the top 50 percent (place 30th or lower) and get two events to the podium,” Grist said.

Francis said the team now is geared for “the most intense month of studying and building so far this year.”

“We have a lot of work to do before we are ready to compete on the national level, and we only have about five weeks to do it,” he said.

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