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The Power of Partnership, Innovation and Learning

Pomolita Science Club Places Second at Science Olympiad

On March 4, Pomolita Middle School’s Science Club earned second place at the Sacramento Regional Science Olympiad for the second year in a row, thereby qualifying for a spot at the state competition at CSU Stanislaus in Turlock on April 1.

Science teacher and club adviser Adam Lane said, “Last year we eked out second place; this year we got it by a mile.”

Science Olympiad is a 23-event competition that tests all areas of science, technology and engineering knowledge. Elementary, middle, and high school teams compete in their respective divisions by having pairs of students work together to perform one of three types of events: field of study, build, and laboratory event. The middle school division allows ninth-graders to participate, since some middle schools include ninth-graders in other parts of the country.

Students start preparing at the beginning of the school year, when the Science Olympiad topics are finalized (topics shift slightly each year).

“We started with about 50 kids in September, but once they find out how much time it takes and how hard they have to work, a lot of kids drop out. The 33 kids we have now are really dedicated,” Lane said. Lane estimates both he and the students put in at least a couple hours a week, and as the competitions approach, that time increases.

Once competition starts, the team with the fewest cumulative points wins. In each event, individual first-place finishers receive one point; second-place finishers receive two points, and so on.

After attending several highly competitive Olympiad Invitationals, Pomolita’s two 15-member teams competed against more than 20 teams at the Sacramento regionals. Experienced students competed in as many as four events, but most team members competed in two or three events.

This year’s single medalists included: Clarice Quigley, Mojo Holstine, Trix Holstine, Lindsay Giglio, Lia Xerogeanes, Marcos Baroza, Thomas Thies, Walker Raugewitz, Donnie Galarza and Adam Zechiel. Double medalists included: Luci Allende, Anna Fetherston, Victor Galarza and Michael Leggett. Triple medalists included: Claire Zechiel, Maeve Richards and Savanah Gipson.

Students who placed first in their events included Donnie Galarza and Adam Zechiel in the Towers event; and Anna Fetherston and Maeve Richards in the Crime Busters event.

Lane said it is difficult to predict which subjects will be most competitive. Galarza and Zechiel had a “nail-biter” as they watched their competition’s towers crumble under increasing weight. The object of the tower competition is to have the tower be able to hold a certain amount of weight compared to the size of the tower.

The students are now in the process of raising the funds to attend the state competition and find sponsors for next year’s team. Students and coaches have raised more than $10,000 to pay for materials and to cover the cost of attending the competitions. Anyone interested in donating should contact Lane at (707) 707-472-5408 or


This year’s Olympiad includes the events listed below. Each Olympiad team must compete in every event or suffer a last-place finish (with the accompanying point load).

•Anatomy and Physiology: A study event which tests students’ knowledge about the anatomy and physiology of a human body. This year’s topics: Nervous system, endocrine system, and sense organs.

•Bottle Rocket: A build event in which a bottle rocket is launched and the longest time aloft wins. The twist is an egg also has to survive the landing. 

•Crime Busters: A lab event in which students identify perpetrators of a certain crime by identifying unknown powders, liquids, and metals, and analyzing hairs, fibers, plastics, fingerprints, DNA evidence, shoe prints, tire treads, soil and splatters. Students also analyze evidence from paper chromatography. Students should be able to use this data to answer some questions about who committed the crime and how the evidence supports their argument.

•Disease Detectives: A study/lab event that focuses on epidemiology (i.e., the study of diseases and how they spread). This year’s focus is on Foodborne Illnesses.

•Dynamic Planet: A study event that focuses on geology and geography. This year’s focus: Tectonic Plates, Earthquakes, and Volcanoes.

•Ecology: A study event of how living things (biotic factors) interact with their non-living environment (abiotic factors). This includes the study of the various ecosystems and biomes. This year’s focus: Forests and Tundra.

•Experimental Design: A lab event where students are given several materials and asked to perform an experiment on a certain scientific topic. 

•Fast Facts: A new event that mirrors the game Scattergories. Students are given five scientific topics and five letters, and have to think of words which could match each letter in each topic area.

•Food Science: A lab and test event which focuses on testing the chemical and physical knowledge of dairy and dairy products.

•Hovercraft: A build event in which students design a hovercraft with at most two fans that can cover an 8-foot table in a given amount of time.

•Invasive Species: A study/identification event which tests participants on certain invasive species found on a tournament-specific invasive species list.

•Meteorology: A weather-based study event designed to test students’ basic understanding of the meteorological principles and ability to interpret and analyze meteorological data. This year’s focus: Severe Storms.

•Microbe Mission: A lab/station/identification event in which teams will answer questions, solve problems, and analyze data pertaining to microbes and microscopes.

•Mission Possible: A build event in which teams make a Rube Goldberg device which uses certain tasks and runs as close as possible to the ideal time to gain the maximum number of points.

•Optics: A study event that deals with geometric and physical optics, such as reflection, refraction, critical angle, electromagnetic and visible spectrum, lenses and mirrors.

•Reach for the Stars: A study event based around identification of stars, stellar phenomena, and galaxies and their life cycles.

•Road Scholar: A study/lab event in which students are to be able to interpret, collect data, and make conjectures from maps, usually, but not limited to, highway (Rand McNally and/or AAA) and/or topographic maps, as well as Google maps/Mapquest and satellite images. Competitors must also be able to draw maps, usually in topographic map format.

•Rocks and Minerals: A study/identification event in which teams use their knowledge of rocks and minerals to identify pictures/specimens and complete a written test.

•Scrambler: A build event that involves designing and building a car/device that transports an egg mounted to its front, a distance of 9 to 12 meters along a straight track as fast as possible, as close to a barrier as possible, without cracking the egg. (Rules may change slightly from 2016)

•Towers: A build event in which students are given certain parameters of length, width, height, and material, each team is to design, build and test the lightest and tallest tower to carry a maximum standard load. 

•Wind Power: A build/study hybrid event which involves the construction of a device that can turn wind into energy and the answering of questions relating to alternative energy.

•Wright Stuff: A build event that involves making, testing, and flying an airplane powered by a twisted rubber band, with the goal of achieving the longest flight duration. The airplane can be of any design, though it must conform to rules regarding maximum wing and stabilizer dimensions, as well as a minimum mass limit (of the entire airplane, not including the rubber loop) and a maximum rubber mass limit.

•Write It Do It: A lab event in which one team member is given a structure built from some sort of construction materials; the same member then writes a set of instructions on how to build it. The other team member is given the instructions written by their teammate and a set of unassembled materials to attempt to recreate the object as accurately as possible.

Lane said he is happy to hear Ukiah High School has formed an Olympiad team, and he hopes his students continue to explore and compete in science as they progress on their academic journey.