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Students go to state -- with science

"Photo:Brainy enough to take second place at the regional high school Science Olympiad were (front) Melody Sinclair, Maya Kocian, Jason S. Porter, (back) Jonathan Scoles, Jason Jerome, Cameron Hunt, and Ryan McElwain.Matt Johnson/ staff photoHow many Langley Middle School students does it take to toss a half-ounce, foam ball three feet into the air?Five. One to hook up a battery, two to fill a plastic bottle with baking soda and vinegar, one to check the electrical contacts, and one to string the rubber band on the catapult. And that's no joke.Those five students plus 10 others from Langley Middle School and 11 students from South Whidbey High School put South Whidbey on Mensa's best young brains map March 11 when they qualified to go to the state Science Olympiad meet. The LMS students placed third in a regional Science Olympiad tournament held that day at Everett, while the high school team took second. The finish was the best ever for the high school team and one of the best for the LMS team. High school team member Melody Sinclair said she was amazed by her team's performance.I was really shocked we got second, said Sinclair.The two South Whidbey teams went to the meet to prove that they are some of the state's best science students. They did so by building rockets out of pop bottles and weight-bearing towers, answering questions on cell biology and physics, and building machines strange enough to catch the eye of even Rube Goldberg.In all, the two teams combined for five first-place event wins, four second place, six third place, and half a dozen other placing finishes. For the high schoolers, Andrew Martin and Jason Jerome teamed up to take the Science Clue category. Then, Martin and Marike Svoboda aced earth science questions in Dynamic Planet.As in many sports, finding a way to win in Science Olympiad can at times be almost intuitive. Martin, a senior, said some information seems to sink in from the oddest places. That is what he said happened in the Dynamic Planet category.I won an event I didn't even study for, Martin said. Maybe I watch The Discovery Channel too much.Middle schoolers Angel Poteat and Clynton Easley won the trajectory event, while teammates Erica Bartlett and Katie Watson were tops in knowing about water quality. Master builders Wolfe Styke and Natalie Schmidt were also winners after building two tall, delicate towers strong enough to hold a glue bottle.The one project that seemed to take up more time than any of the others the LMS students put together was the Rube Goldberg machine Styke, Matt Stats, Katherine East, Orson Ossman, and Nate Goodman built for the Mission Possible competition. The object was to use as many types of energy possible to shoot a foam ball along a certain trajectory. The students used electricity, wind, mechanical, and chemical energies to do the deed. They took third place for their efforts.Rachel Kizer, an LMS teacher and Science Olympiad coach, said her team's finish is especially impressive, as most of the team members are sixth graders. Two years ago, an older LMS team won the regional contest. Last year, LMS placed eighth.This is a young team that combined efforts to score place points in 20 of 23 events, Kizer said. With an incredible amount of parent support, these students should be congratulated for a terrific showing.Greg Ballog, the high school team's coach, said his team's finish was its best in three years of competing. This will be the first year a SWHS team goes to the state meet. The regional meet is the only meet of the year and only qualifier for state.It's a one shot deal, Ballog said.The state Science Olympiad will be held at Everett Community College on April 15. The winning team will then move on to the national Science Olympiad, which will be held in Washington on May 19 and 20."

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