Research, build, create and repeat.
This was the daily after-school routine for students at Archimedean Middle Conservatory, a Greek-based K-12 charter school in Southwest Miami-Dade County that holds 1,197 students, as they prepared for the regional and state Science Olympiad Competition.
“Many times the students have stayed after school four to five days a week,” said head coach Patricio Mendez. “The coaches are there to guide them, but the students do everything themselves.”
The national competition includes 23 different building and study events that student teams of 15 can participate in according to their interests and/or skills.
Archimedean Middle had three teams compete regionally at Florida Atlantic University in Boca Raton — Achilles, Heracles and Perseus — earning 69 medals and first- and second-place trophies.
“It really depends on how you study and build stuff,” said Camila Cordero, who competed in several events, placing first in road scholar and second in invasive species and bridge building.
For bridge building she had to read rules, stick to specific weights and see how much sand her bridge could carry within a 15-kg limit.
“We started off with a simple design, limiting the weight, and we added sand, more and more and more,” said Camila, 12. “We couldn’t break the bridge or we would get disqualified.”
In the end, she said the bridge successfully carried 14.9 kg of sand.
At the state competition in Orlando, teams Achilles and Heracles competed and received medals in several events, including: anatomy, crime busters, crave the wave, dynamic planet and air trajectory.
“We placed third in state for air trajectory,” said Ioannis Georgoulakis, who also placed first in elastic launched glider and wind power.
Ioannis and his cousin, Joseph Luis, used various tools, including a stool, shampoo bottle, shower cap, PVC pipe, a stick and a bucket to shoot their ball at the required meter marks to place first in air trajectory.
“The meter marks are more precise as you advance,” said Ioannis, 12. “It took us a while to choose the perfect ball.”
Now, the school will represent Florida for the sixth time since its start in 2008 in the national competition May 20 and 21 at the University of Wisconsin-Stout.
Students will live in the dorms and eat in the school café.
“The goal is to give students the ultimate college experience, so that they want to work harder and attend college in the future,” said Mendez.
Mendez added that as a small charter school, the challenge is figuring out how to get 17 students to Wisconsin.
“The school helps us out when they can with resources, but it’s pretty much on the students,” Mendez said.
For the regional and state competitions, parents are notified beforehand about where the competition will take place and carpools are arranged for students.
For nationals, parents, faculty and students host fundraisers.
“We try to give them skills for life not just middle school,” principal Vasiliki Moysidis said.
“We don’t make excuses.”
Recently returning from spring break, students are back to their routine of researching, building and creating to reach their goal of placing in the Top 20 nationally.
“Like the heroes of yore [ancient times], they competed honorably and displayed excellence in all their labors,” Mendez said.
The Miami Herald published this piece on April 14, 2016. Interested in having low-cost, timely and professionally edited work for your news organization? Read about us here and contact News Director Dan Evans at firstname.lastname@example.org.