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Local aspiring scientists to compete in Science Olympiad this weekend
Science Olympiad
Turlock High School will have two teams competing at the 30th Annual Stanislaus County Regional Science Olympiad on Sunday at Modesto Junior College. The public is invited to attend. Admission and parking are free. - photo by Photo Contributed

Nearly 30 students from Turlock High School are hoping to stand apart from over 500 fellow budding scientists throughout the region on Sunday for the 30th Annual Stanislaus County Regional Science Olympiad.

This weekend’s competition will be THS’ first Science Olympiad competition since 2007, but not the high school’s first time competing entirely, according to biology teacher Kevin Testo, who said that students competed and won the regional title back-to-back in 2006 and 2007 under previous Science Olympiad advisor Tamara Littlewood.

“I helped revive the program here to give our students great science and engineering experiences, connect them with passionate individuals and hopefully spark their interest in a future career in science,” said Testo, who said that this is also his first year teaching at THS. “These kinds of experiences also give them a lot of great college application material.”

Testo said that students have received help from a myriad of mentors as they have been preparing all year for their various events. The high school’s Earth Sciences team has been studying with science teacher Ryan Hollister to learn about ocean currents, climate patterns and plate tectonics among other related topics. Testo, along with fellow biology teachers Sue Bonander and Sonja Raynes, have been helping students learn anatomy and physiology, as well as cell biology. Engineering teacher Bob Hoskins has been helping engineering students create lightweight bridges that can withstand a lot of weight, robot arms that can pick up various devices and set them down, planes that can stay in the air for long periods of time and electric vehicles that can be programmed to move certain distances.

Students have received help from more than just their teachers at the high school campus as a Stanislaus State chemistry professor has also been working with chemistry students to teach them the principles of kinetics and gasses, while Testo’s wife, Setar Testo, who is a public health educator at San Joaquin Health Plan, has been teaching the school’s Disease Detective team about epidemiology and infectious diseases.

This weekend’s Regional Science Olympiad consists of individual and team events that encourage learning in biology, earth science, chemistry, physics, problem solving and technology. Some events require knowledge of scientific facts and concepts, while other rely on science processes, skills or application.

According to Stanislaus County Office of Education Student Events Program Coordinator Cheryl Goulart, several events require students to build devices prior to the competition, such as Elastic Glider, which challenged students to design, build and test a device that uses elastic material as the propulsion energy to achieve maximum time aloft, and Air Trajectory, which prompted students to design, construct and calibrate a device capable of launching projectiles into a target.

THS will be joined by fellow city school Turlock Junior High School, as well as other regional high schools and junior/middle schools from Modesto, Ceres, Riverbank, Hickman and Oakdale. The top four teams in each division advance to the Northern California Science Olympiad State Finals, which is scheduled for April 16 at Stanislaus State.

This year’s Science Olympiad is sponsored by the Stanislaus County Office of Education, US Bank, Modesto Junior College, and the Education Foundation of Stanislaus County. Derek Madden, Biology Professor from MJC and Goulart are coordinating the event. They will join more than 150 volunteers, who will judge or assist with the competition.

The 30th Annual Stanislaus County Regional Science Olympiad at Modesto Junior College is scheduled to begin at 8:30 a.m. in the West Campus Science Center and end at 5:30 p.m. with an Awards Ceremony in the Agriculture Pavilion on Sunday. The public is invited to attend. Admission and parking will be free.