Science Olympiad “Judge”

The email that evening seemed innocent enough. I knew Professor Krupp a little, but I had never taken a class from him. “Mike”, it said, “I am looking for judges for the Science Olympiad, and one of your professors recommended you. Would you like to be a judge for the regional at Windward Community College?”

Windward Science Olympiad 10 Years of Awesome

Hmmm, I’m a student, not a teacher, but can I be a judge? Why not? I thought, it can’t be that hard. So with images of myself (not quite in wig and robe but almost) showing up on the big day to pass judgment I quickly replied. “No problem. Thanks for asking and sign me up.”

The easiest fish ever caught.

The next day, the details arrive in my inbox. Uh-oh. What’s this it says? Judges have to WRITE the test??? My topic was “Ice and Water in the Solar System.” It had been a while since I had taken Astronomy! And in between I had Chemistry, which of course erased all previous knowledge from my brain. Panic set in until I remembered that there is a higher power with the answers: Google.

Google has the answers and the answer to this turned out to be that this was a new topic for 2014 so therefore no previous tests were to be found! Now I was in trouble. I would actually have to – gack! arrgh! eek! – write the test.

I had never written a test before, so this was a challenge. I plunged in, and bit by bit got it done. Of course, it wasn’t just a test, it was a Science Olympiad, and I’m in the business of making Science interesting, so I had better make this an interesting test.
When I finally got a first draft done I gave it to two middle school science teachers that I know for feedback. “Was it hard enough?” I asked. They threw the test at me. Apparently it was a bit TOO interesting: between them, they got 3 questions right (out of 50).

Hawaii Science OlympiadAnyway, it finally all came together, and with the great help of Professor Laychek we were able to use the Imaginarium planetarium for our section of the Olympiad, which I think made it fun and interesting for the teams that participated. I enjoyed my part very much, despite the challenge, and further had the opportunity to coach a couple of the teams that participated to prepare for the State Olympiad, which was also a really great and fun experience.

Of course, a project like this often has a peanut gallery, and I had a great one: all the teachers I know. Because only they (and now me a little bit) appreciate what a challenge it is and how much time and work it takes to write a good test, not to mention grading it and providing feedback. Thank you, teachers.

Visit the Hawaii Science Olympiad Website at


Facts and figures about STEM Education in the U.S.

The following information is from WRALTechwire.

Facts and figures about STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) as compiled by the North Carolina Stem Community Collaborative:

• By 2014, there are expected to be 2 million jobs created in STEM-related fields (Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation)

• Concern about America’s ability to be competitive in the global economy has led to a number of calls to action to strengthen the pipeline into these fields (National Academy of Sciences, Committee on Science, Engineering & Public Policy, 2007; U.S. Government Accountability Office, 2006; U.S. Department of Education, 2006).

• Forty percent (40%) of all students test at below basic math level; 70% African Americans and 3/5 Latinos test below math level (2005 National Assessment of Education Progress)

• Fifty percent (50%) of all students test at below basic science level; 4/5 African Americans and 7/10 Latinos below basic science level (Ibid)

• The number of engineering degrees awarded in the United States is down 20% from the peak year of 1985. (Tapping America’s Potential;

• Although U.S. fourth graders score well against international competition, they fall near the bottom or dead last by the time they are 12th graders in mathematics and science, respectively. (Ibid)

• More than 50% of all engineering doctorial degrees awarded by U.S. engineering colleges are to individuals ineligible for the security clearances required for most defense industrial base jobs (Ibid)

• In 2001, there were slightly more than 4 million 9th graders. Four years later, 2.8 million graduated and 1.9 million went on to two and four year college; only 1.3 million were actually ready for college work. Fewer than 300,000 are majoring in STEM fields and only about 167,000 are expected to be STEM college graduates by 2011. (National Center for Education Statistics; Digest of Education Statistics)

Copyright 2012 WRAL Tech Wire. All rights reserved.

While many schools are trying to combat these trends, they are frightening statistics and these trends will not be turned around overnight. Our children and grandchildren will need to understand this planet if they are going to make the right decisions and tough choices that will be needed to adapt to the challenges of this century.

It is studies like these that get me excited about Science Camps of America.
We will be a part of the solution.