Penn State hosts multi-state STEM competition for high school students

February 21, 2023

By Lauren Colvin

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — The Science Olympiad Alumni at Penn State (SOAPS) club hosted its third annual Science Olympiad invitational at Penn State on Jan. 14. Twenty-eight teams from 16 high schools across four states competed in events ranging in disciplines from astronomy to environmental chemistry to remote sensing and more.

SOAPS was founded in 2020 by a group of former participants in the Science Olympiad, a national competition for middle and high school students that challenges teams to 23 STEM-related events spanning a wide range of disciplines. Advisers for the club include Paul Mittan, professor of practice and director of Engineering Leadership Development, and Brad Sottile, lecturer in computer science and engineering. The Penn State School of Engineering Design and Innovation was a platinum sponsor of the event.

An event supervisor watches as two students pour sand into a gallon bucket hanging from a small bridge placed over a hole in a table

Students applied their civil engineering knowledge to construct a lightweight balsa wood bridge that holds as much sand as possible before breaking. Gavin Budikentjana (right), a first-year mechanical engineering and engineering science student at Penn State, supervised the event.  IMAGE: Jeff Xu/Penn State

A student throws their balsa wood airplane in the air to test its flight time prior to competition

Students designed and constructed lightweight, rubber-powered airplanes out of balsa wood and mylar, which they then calibrated to fly for as long as possible. IMAGE: Jeff Xu/Penn State

Two students study their small, four-wheeled vehicle as it rolls down the track carrying an egg

Students designed a vehicle and operated a gravity-powered vehicle launcher to quickly transport an egg along a straight track and stop as close to a target wall as possible, without breaking the egg attached to the vehicle’s front. IMAGE: Jeff Xu/Penn State

High school students and their team advisers sit in a large lecture hall awaiting a medals ceremony

Teams gathered for the invitational award ceremony held in Thomas 100. IMAGE: Jeff Xu/Penn State

Five college students stand behind a table with piles of medals and trophies on it

SOAPS board members prepared to hand out medals at the awards ceremony. Pictured left to right: Penn State undergraduate students Amanda Brundage, a fourth year studying industrial engineering; Vy Le, a second year studying chemistry; Timothy Pickarski, a fourth year studying material science and engineering; Aidan Donnelly, a fourth year studying microbiology; and Ben Zydney, a third year studying computer science. IMAGE: Jeff Xu/Penn State

 The club president and vice president stand for a photo at the conclusion of the awards ceremony

Penn State undergraduate students Zoe Goldblum, a third year studying immunology and infectious disease (left), and Arman Ahmad, a third year studying biology, served as SOAPS president and vice president, as well as 2023 invitational co-tournament directors. IMAGE: Jeff Xu/Penn State


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