Kennedy Middle School Science Olympiad team wins fourth place at Nationals

MVHS members of the KMS Gold team share their experience competing at the 2018 middle school National Tournament


Pairs of students wearing colorful, matching T-shirts line up in front of classrooms. They frantically review cheat sheets and cautiously carry boxes that contain complicated, home-made devices to save an egg from a 30 foot drop or propel an object for minutes in the air. These study-guides and machines are products of months of preparation conducted by Science Olympiad students from across the country.

On May 20, 2018, students from the Kennedy Middle School Gold Team competed in the National Science Olympiad tournament in Colorado and brought home the fourth place national title. The Gold Team includes four members who currently attend MVHS as freshmen: Grace Kuo, Saarang Kashyap, Nishanth Arumugam and Eshani Patel.

According to the Science Olympiad guidelines on team size and grade levels, teams from schools with grade levels six through eight, like KMS, are allowed to enroll up to five ninth graders who were previously enrolled with the team as eighth graders.

Patel has participated in Science Olympiad since seventh grade. Being on the team takes up a large portion of Patel’s everyday life, and the events she has participated in, such as Anatomy and Physiology, Disease Detectives and Microbe Mission, have sparked her curiosity and interest in science. Kuo, Kashyap and Arumugam all agree that their experiences from Science Olympiad have motivated them to pursue their interests in STEM and work hard to achieve their goals.

“I think [Science Olympiad] has increased my wanting to learn more,” Patel said. “It has caused me to have this love for science that I probably wouldn’t have without Science Olympiad.”

The students prepared from three to six hours every week during the year, although their specific study schedules differed from one another. But many devoted the most time to studying and engineering devices during the weeks leading up to the tournament. Arumugam explains that he could not have kept up with the rigorous study schedule if it weren’t for his mother’s continuous support.

“[My mom] was the one who really pushed me and got all the resources and made me do the test practice,” Arumugam said. “She really forced me to do two hours a day, and eventually it was worth all the time.”

While the KMS team has consistently qualified for states for several years, 2018 was the first time the team won first place in the state tournament and thus, advanced to the national competition. Many of the competitors did not expect to be the forerunner at the state tournament. Kuo was not an exception. She had higher hopes last year, but unfortunately the team failed to qualify for Nationals. Hence, she didn’t dare to have high expectations this year.

Arumugam explains that the Winston Churchill Middle School team consistently qualified to National for the past five years, so no one had seriously expected any different result at this year’s state tournament.

“This year, they called [Churchill] out as third place, and at that point, we were like, ‘If they go third place, who got second place?’ Then they called out second place for [Miller Middle School], and at this point it changed my heat,” Arumugam said. “Then they called out our name and I really didn’t know what to say; I was just so excited to be going to nationals.”

After winning first place and qualifying for the national tournament, the team received hearty congratulations along with cautionary emails from coaches of other teams at other schools, warning the students not to get their hopes up. After all, this was the national tournament.

“[The national tournament] was a lot more put together than regionals or invitationals,” Kuo said. “There were a lot of people really cool people there … and of course, they were all really intimidating … Since they put it on TV and had this huge auditorium, it just felt very professional.”

Placing fourth place at Nationals was a surreal experience for the freshmen. It showed them that persistence and determination really pays off, despite the difficulty of the task at hand.

“I was very happy as this can be a hard achievement to accomplish,” Kashyap said. “It shows how much hard work [we] put in.”

Now that they are going to be sophomores next year, all four students hope to continue Science Olympiad on the MVHS team. They also plan to return to KMS occasionally to mentor younger students.

“[Participating in Science Olympiad has] made science a bigger part of my life,” Kuo said. “It’s just really eye opening because there’s just a lot of components to everyday life that I didn’t really know about.”

KMS students hold up a banner at a ceremony at the National Middle School Science Olympiad Tournament. The tournament was held in Colorado. Photo courtesy of KMS Science Olympiad Gold Team.