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Credit: Zihan Xiong , Griff Fitzsimmons

More than 600 high school students gathered on campus over the weekend for Penn’s first Science Olympiad invitational.

Student organization Science Olympiad at the University of Pennsylvania held its first annual event this past Saturday, bringing together competitors from Pennsylvania and other states to face their peers in written tests and practical experiments.

“We left Long Island at like three this morning,” high school student Grace Constantino said as she waited outside the “Towers” event, where students placed weights on towers made of thin wooden sticks until they collapsed.

“I’m very excited to be here,” she added. “Some of the best teams are here.”

Science Olympiad is a competition for elementary through high school students. Founded in the early 1980s, according to the organization’s national website, it now sponsors more than 300 regional competitions each year leading up to a national competition in the spring. Science educators across the country incorporate the competitions into their curricula.

College sophomore Tiberiu Mihaila, Wharton and Engineering junior Kai Wang and College junior Molly Bucklin competed on the same Science Olympiad team in high school, and they started Penn’s Science Olympiad organization together with College freshman Eric Shan. Students from their New York school, Fayetteville–Manlius High School, traveled to Penn this weekend to participate in the competition.

The cofounders said they started the group to provide more hands-on opportunities for high school students to learn science.

“I worked on my Rube Goldberg device basically with all my free time during high school, and I felt that something was missing when I got to Penn,” Bucklin said. “When Tiberiu got here, the three of us just decided to host this event.”

The four assembled a core team and started planning for the tournament in August, before classes started. They also engaged student volunteers from schools like Cornell University, where the student Science Olympiad organization has already hosted three invitational tournaments. Science Olympiad at the University of Pennsylvania has also received funding from the Jerome Fisher Program in Management and Technology, the Chemistry Department, the Physics & Astronomy Department and the Office of Admissions.

In addition to hosting the tournament, the organization’s members work with Science Olympiad teams at local schools. They tutor students every week as the teams prepare for upcoming tournaments.

“We hope to bring the experience we had to them and hopefully make science a part of their lives,” Mihaila said.

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