Science Olympiad success at Regionals

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On March 20, Townsend Harris’s three Science Olympiad (SciOly) teams won 1st, 3rd and 13th place out of 34 teams in the NYC South 2021 Regional Science Olympiad Competition. They achieved first place finishes in Anatomy and Physiology, Astronomy, Circuit Lab, Codebusters, and Fossils. Overall, they earned 32 medals, or top ten finishes.  

“When the results were announced, the team and I were ecstatic,” said SciOly president Katie Sie. “I was proud of the perseverance, motivation, and dedication of the team members, especially because they had to adapt to a virtual season.”

This year’s virtual set-up was a huge change to the usual in-person operation of Science Olympiad. Typically, hundreds of students from different schools congregate together for the competitions, but this year they were held virtually through Zoom and the Scilympiad online scoring system.

The team commented on the stark difference between a virtual and in person awards ceremony. “Being physically surrounded by hundreds of people, nearly fifty of whom are cheering you on when you’re called up to get a medal, is different from being muted on a Zoom call,” junior Sonia Hasko said.

Senior Daniel Sun agreed and said, “Even so, it is noteworthy that the state has adapted to the COVID restrictions in order to provide the students with an opportunity to compete virtually.”

The format of the events themselves had changed significantly. Senior Madison Bitna said, “…There was no hands on lab for my event, Forensics.” Instead, dry labs, analysis of pre-generated experiment data, were implemented. The build events were also eliminated.

Daniel said there was “a lack of build events which was generally a big part of Scioly especially for me. Without them, I got to focus more on study events but even so, it does feel like a loss to me.”

Unable to fully communicate with their partners during the competition was a challenge that both Madison and sophomore Quindy Pan faced.  “…Sometimes it was hard to communicate with my partner and coordinate who was going to do what,” said Quindy. 

Several of the other members agreed that it was more difficult to socialize and connect with their partners through the virtual format. Katie said, “It has been difficult to promote team bonding and collaboration, but we… have tried our best through social events and games before awards ceremonies.” 

Additionally, Daniel was concerned about disqualifications during the competition. “Since there were troubles with disqualifications due to minor errors in other regions, we were completely in the dark about whether there were any mishaps,” he said. “Luckily, we didn’t have any DQ’s [disqualifications] and we were in the clear at least for this competition.”

Many members mentioned that studying for the competition virtually presented its own challenges. Quindy said, “At times, I felt very unmotivated to study because I’ve been sitting in front of Zoom the whole day and the last thing I want to do is sit in front of a Zoom study session.” Not having access to in-school textbooks and the Queens College library served as an impediment as well, Madison explained. However, she said that the extra “sleep and relaxation” due to being remote was a benefit. Quindy said she was grateful for the elimination of graphing questions as well.  

Despite not being present at the same venue, there had been no lack of competitiveness between the schools.  Daniel said, “I would say in terms of competitiveness, it is about the same as last year if not slightly better.”

Although there had been a few roadblocks, the team’s efforts were not in vain. Katie said, “For the past 5 months, we’ve been holding study sessions on Zoom for hours after school and competing at numerous invitational tournaments where we compete with other teams nationwide.” When the results were announced, Quindy said she “wasn’t surprised because of everyone’s dedication to SCIOLY throughout the season.” 

The team will now advance and compete in the New York State Science Olympiad Competition this month.