Purdue Northwest readies for Science Olympiad competitions
University to host state finals for first time ever
Purdue University Northwest (PNW) will welcome 37 middle and high school Science Olympiad teams to its Hammond campus during the spring semester for STEM academic competitions on Feb. 11.
PNW annually presents a Science Olympiad regional (Feb. 11) for multiple Northwest Indiana schools, but will also host qualifying teams from across Indiana for the Science Olympiad state finals on March 11 — the first time in the university’s two-plus decades of facilitating Science Olympiad competitions.
“This is really a great opportunity for PNW to show the schools in our communities the great facilities, faculty, and students that we have,” said Vanessa Quinn, professor of Biology. “It’s a place where we can be engaging with the community. We can reach out to the community, which is important, but we can also bring people to PNW to see the things we have available for them.”
Visiting teams compete in up to 25 different events, some in a test format and others that are hands-on. Students put their knowledge to the test in activities ranging from forensics problem-solving to bridge strength and durability. Faculty and student volunteers from PNW’s colleges of Engineering and Sciences and Technology will help facilitate and judge.
As a host for annual Science Olympiad events, PNW offers a chance for event participants to preview the environments where their STEM interests can take them, as well as the people they would learn from.
This is really a great opportunity for PNW to show the schools in our communities the great facilities, faculty, and students that we have.
“I remember when the student competitors come to campus, especially the middle school kids, I have heard them say ‘this is the greatest day of my life and I get to be in college.’ The competitors get to see that when you go to college you can continue doing these great events or lab projects because we have the facilities they compete in. They also see that college professors are not scary — they are really available and excited to have them here.”
Quinn also notes Science Olympiad, much like PNW’s STEM on the Road peer-to-peer outreach events, helps foster students’ contemporary interests to be involved in hands-on activities and see their research in action.
“I know some high school students are worried they are going to come to college, get lectured to for eight hours a day, and just have all kinds of homework and that nobody will care about them. Our (college) students are good at communicating that that is not the case. We have students who really understand that the college experience is fundamentally different than the high school experience. Of course, there will always be lectures, but I see them talk with the high school students and show them the stuff you are doing in a club is the stuff you get to do in a college class.”
The top six middle school and top seven high school teams at PNW’s regional will qualify for the state finals. A single middle and high school winner will come out victorious in March to qualify for the national Science Olympiad finals in Wichita, KS.