SLHS places fourth in Science Olympiad regionals


Images via VA Science Olympiad & Reston Now

Helen Ehrlich, Editor-In-Chief

South Lakes’ Science Olympiad program placed fourth overall in the regional Science Olympiad competition. The group now has the opportunity to compete in the state competition on March 20, 2021. Science Olympiad is a competition where students participate in different events related to earth science, biology, chemistry, engineering and physics. Teams partake in three or four events out of the 23 offered, with small groups and duos from each school entering the events. Teams can have up to fifteen members, and because Virginia permits two teams per school, South Lakes has a Blue Team and Green Team. Students prepare by practicing their skills and studying the material together.


The competition was fully virtual this year, which meant events looked different for participants. Club co-president and South Lakes senior Rita Ajit explained, “This year all the tests took place online and those tests where competitors build and test their own creations were conducted via Zoom call with judges.” Senior and Science Olympiad member Ryan Gray shared that the building segments usually involve an event “where people build something to compete in some sort of challenge — A gravity vehicle for example, [where they] build a vehicle that functions only on the power of gravity — Their designs must fit within certain constraints.” 


Numerous students from South Lakes individually placed high enough to earn medals this year. Ryan Gray and Rohan Kanchetty notably took home first place in the Fossils event. Gang-mu Liu and Ryan Gray took third place in Machines, as did Sarina Nayak in Anatomy & Physiology. The other duos from the teams all successfully earned sixth place awards, with Alexis Jeffryes and Rita Ajit earning theirs in Water Quality, Christopher Zhong and Justin Vogel in Detecter Design, Manav Nadriga and Rohan Kanchetty for Anatomy & Physiology, Alexis Jeffryes and Justin Vogel for Astronomy, and Gang-Mu Liu and Neil Kanchetty in Vehicle Design.


South Lakes previously qualified for the state competition in 2020, marking a first for the club since 2015. The pandemic shut down the competition, meaning students were left waiting until 2021 for another shot at the state title. This second year of qualifying is a big success for these Seahawks, after the last four years were spent rebuilding the nine-year-old program. Senior and co-president Alexis Jeffryes shared, “…[W]e’ve slowly built up the team, and now we have more members and resources at our disposal than initially.” 


If South Lakes’ teams found success at states, they would be breaking up a long Science Olympiad legacy, winning for the first time since Science Olympiad began in Virginia in 2002. One of three schools has won each state competition since 2008: Langley High School, Fairfax High School or Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology (TJHSST). Despite Virginia boasting a total of 136 teams, James Madison High School’s 2007 victory and McLean High School’s 2002 success are the only two championship titles in Virginia Science Olympiad history that did not go to TJHSST, Langley or Fairfax. Additionally, every single state champion since 2003 has come from the Fairfax Region, while South Lakes falls under the Charlottesville Region.


For South Lakes’ Science Olympiad members, competitions are a way for them to build and utilize their knowledge, while working together and representing their school.