Students share love of science

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Ryan Silvola/Beloit Daily News (From left, clockwise): Science Olympiad member Steve Dillard and co-captain Jacob Pittner work on a robot while Alex Nohr works on the robot’s coding on Monday. During competitions, the robot is supposed to be able to to precisely pick up and move pennies.

TOWN OF BELOIT — Those who have a passion for science have found their home as a member of Turner High School’s Science Olympiad team. In fact, they love science so much they even come in to take tests on Saturdays.

Turner’s team has approximately 30 members who compete in 27 different events that are broken up into five categories: life science, earth science, chemistry and physics, inquiry and technology.

“Science Olympiad creates crazy ridiculous events that seem impossible on the surface or extremely high level, and it forces the kids to reach that level and really surpass that,” adviser Nolan Otremba said. “It takes them out of the classroom and to a whole new level.”

One of the events even involves building a robot to pick up and move pennies.

Co-captain Jinan Sous said Science Olympiad has made her want to study different branches of science she never thought she would.

“It’s where the nerds come together,” Sous said. “Everyone here likes science like I do, so it’s not weird to talk about science all the time.”

Otremba said the Turner team took third place at the Slinger Invitational out of 18 competing schools last weekend. The team took third place in regionals at the end of January, and both the varsity and junior varsity teams have qualified for the state competition on April 8.

“Only the top 10 JV teams were invited to state, and we were one of them,” Otremba said.

Adviser Kelsey Uttke said many of the students who are in the Science Olympiad don’t participate in sports, so their peers are their team. She also said investigating new branches of science keeps the students coming back.

“Like these guys get so excited about figuring this robot out,” Uttke said. “The actual competition is fine, but it’s not the exciting part for them.”

Co-captain Tyler Beamon said being on the team has increased her confidence in the field of science.

“You come to Science Olympiad, and you have this team that encourages you to do your best, and then you think, ‘oh wait, I can do that (event),” Beamon said.

The Science Olympiad has been established at Turner High School for five years. Otremba said students are in three to five different events varying from astronomy to forensics.

Sous and Beamon said the teams have made it all four years and are hoping to be within the top 15 schools this year at the state competition. The team came in 14th place two years ago against schools who have double or triple the number of students. Their favorite event is code busters, where the team has to bust cyphers based in letters or mathematical equations.

The Science Olympiad team used to practice after school, but with the addition of Pride Time back in mid-January, students can use the 30-minute window to study or work on their olympiad projects. Pride Time was created as a window for students to get extra help in math, study for their Advanced Placement course, etc. One of the options also is to join the Science Olympiad.

Otremba said he often questions why students would want to come in and take tests on Saturdays before invitationals.

“They like rising to the challenge,” Otremba said. “They like seeing what they actually do know, and what has also helped is we have had some success the past few years, and it’s created a really close knit team. They don’t just do it for themselves. They do it for each other, too, so they can push each other.”

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