Omar Rashad / LA Times
West Torrance High School

West Torrance Science Olympiad push forth at State Competition

It was precisely at around 6:12 am on an early Saturday morning, which through the gradually disappearing darkness of the night you could see five cars arrive at West Torrance High School. Yes it was cold, it was early, but it was time for West High’s Science Olympiad team to compete at the 2017 SoCal State Science Olympiad Tournament.

Although this would only be West’s second appearance at the Caltech hosted event, these students were ready to put forth their best efforts. Carpooling with as-determined parents, the 15 students made their way to Pasadena to get started with this day-long event.

Each of the 15 students knew what they were heading into. West High’s Science Olympians, participating in Division C Events, had to prepare for study, lab, as well as building events. Each having their own rules, restrictions, and activity, every event is unique in its own way. Some study events test competitors on a general subject and allow them to bring a binder to assist while taking tests. Other events have a limit to cheat sheets or other aides. Lab events require students to recreate and analyze labs that they undertake on the spot.

Study events can be nerve-racking since students have to be well-versed with large amounts of information regarding a wide subject, like Invasive Species or Astronomy, making these events extremely rigorous.

Manas Jinka, a junior who took on event Wind Power, a combination study and building event said, “It’s not like school where you might get a syllabus or a guide. For most of us, it’s just like a broad category of what the subject is about, and you just have to study and be prepared for the tests.”

Richard Ruan and Danny Son look over subject material one last time to prepare for their study events. Omar Rashad / LA Times

Likewise, simply a testament to the rigor and amount of studying necessary for these study events, Richard Ruan had to prepare himself for events Dynamic Planet, Invasive Species, and Wind Power.

He said, “I had to work and collaborate with my friend and teammate, Tarun Allaparti, in attempting to learn the entirety of plate tectonics, which is extremely difficult [because of] the enormity of the subject.

“I’ve organized extremely detailed research on more than 100 invasive species and trained with Science Olympiad president Cindy Cao to identify these species and improve our identification speed. I’ve [also] helped add more research and design a more efficient wind turbine for the combination test and building event known as wind power.”

Although the subject material might be difficult to know in its entirety due to its enormity, students never head into an event by themselves. They always have a partner or peer looking to help and perform at the same level.

Steven Gee, a senior, said, “It’s a lot better to take a test with someone if you understand how they think and can work well with them.”

Science Olympiad provides a big chance for students to get closer, building on the common interest of science.

Science Olympiad offers a hard challenge to students outside of a strictly academic environment. Instead, it offers a “team” aspect to science that can pave way for students interested in pursuing STEM-related careers. It gives them hands-on experience and a feel for experiments and the day-to-day activities a scientist might partake in.

Senior Steven Gee said, “It’s provided a focus for me [because] I know I want to go into math and science and this has helped a lot. The most I’ve gotten out of Science Olympiad was that it was a lot of fun and was worth the time essentially.”

West High Science Olympiad performed very well at this past State Competition, taking 6th place in Astronomy, 2nd place in Forensics, as well as a 1st place in Ecology. These STEM driven students look to propel West up the rankings and look to do even better next year.