Sunday, February 17, 2008

Media: Science Olympiad to test teams from Sullivan and Crystal schools

Click here for the Vacaville Reporter's take on this same story

By Nika Megino | Daily Republic

FAIRFIELD - Kyra Duncan squinted at a test tube containing a thick orange liquid. She added drops of blue Biuret solution and then watched in amazement as the liquid turned purple, indicating a presence of protein.

The eighth-grader at Sullivan Middle School is a member of the school's Science Olympiad team, which will face Crystal Middle School (located in Suisun City) in the Sullivan Science Olympiad competition from 8 a.m. to noon today.

The competition requires students to compete in 12 stations that involve building, analyzing and problem solving. To prepare for the event, both teams have worked since September on the various types of challenges.

Duncan has become familiar with the Food Science challenge, an experiment that tasks students to find the composition of foods by testing substances for carbohydrates, proteins and lipids.

The 13-year-old said it's her favorite activity because she gets to look beyond the surface with the use of chemicals.

'They tell you stuff you wouldn't know just by looking at it,' Duncan said.

All around her, students were perfecting their knowledge in various subjects. Behind her, seventh-graders Emily Lamb and Michelle Reyes, both 12, began building a monoplane glider to be launched by a balloon.

The girls said their experience on the team has been fun.

'But we still work hard,' Reyes said. 'We have to know a lot of stuff.'

As part of the Science Olympiad team, students are exposed to Earth and life sciences, chemistry, physics and astronomy. Teacher Denise Gordon, who has been a coach with Sullivan's team for seven years, said the activities cause students to exercise their critical thinking abilities.

'It gives us a chance to go beyond what we can in the classroom,' Gordon said. 'They have the opportunity to explore.'

At Crystal Middle, seventh-graders Jessica Sims, 13, and Giovanna Singh, 12, have been working on a Food Science project. The girls said they joined the school's team because of their love of science.

'Science is pretty cool,' Sims said. 'You can experiment with things and get outcomes you never believe you would.'

Singh said she was surprised to learn that food has DNA.

'There's more things in (food) than you believe,' said Sims, who added she was shocked to find Vitamin C in apples.

This is Crystal Middle's return to Science Olympiad after taking a one-year break. The school brought it back because of high student interest, said teacher Tara Spinelli, who has coached the team for six years.

'They enjoy it. We enjoy it,' Spinelli said.

The teams are competing in preparation for the Northern California Regional Science Olympiad, which will be held in April at Cal State Sacramento. Today's competition, which will be held at Sullivan Middle, is open to the public. The school is located at 2195 Union Ave.

Reach Nika Megino at 427-6953 or

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