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Reaching for the stars

Science Olympiad team qualifies for Nationals.

Patrick+Naughton+and+Luke+Biernbaum+work+on+their+robotic+arm.
Patrick Naughton and Luke Biernbaum work on their robotic arm.

Patrick Naughton and Luke Biernbaum work on their robotic arm.

Mark Biernbaum

Mark Biernbaum

Patrick Naughton and Luke Biernbaum work on their robotic arm.

Cindy Wang, Writer

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“And in first place, with 93 points is… Ladue Horton Watkins High School!”  For the first time in three years, the high school team won first place at state in 2016, guaranteeing them a trip to the Science Olympiad National Tournament.

The only way to qualify for Nationals is for a team to place first or second at the state competition. John Burroughs School, Pembroke Hill High School and Ladue Horton Watkins High School are usually competing for the top two spots.

“Our goal in years past has always been to compete against Burroughs to fight for the second place spot at state,” Stephanie Zhong, senior and 6-year Science Olympiad member, said. “We could never imagine actually beating Pembroke. It was an awesome feeling to place first at state.”

This year, the high school team is determined to do even better.  Mark Biernbaum, head coach of the high school Science Olympiad team, arranged weekly meetings and frequent assessments to encourage the students to work hard.  Due to the increase in students participating, Biernbaum has created a training team to keep the students who do not become a part of the final lineup to stay motivated.

“[The training team was created] to allow more kids to be a part of Science Olympiad, especially the kids who didn’t make the team,” Biernbaum said. “Instead of just giving up and thinking, ‘I’m never going to make the team’, [I wanted] to keep them going.”

With only fifteen spots on the official team, positions are limited and anyone can be replaced by students on the training team. The kids even go to individual tournaments to improve their skills.

“I’m really proud with the amount of work that the kids put in,” Biernbaum said. “We have a really good team.”

With the official team chosen recently, the high school team is determined to make history this competition year.  Their new goal is to place top ten at Nationals.  Just last year, the team went from placing 38th in the nation to placing 21st nationally.

“For this year, I would absolutely love if the team could make it to top ten in the nation,” Biernbaum said.  “I think it could happen. “

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Reaching for the stars