Mason Science Olympiad hosts first in-person invite

Srinidhi Valathappan | The Chronicle

A shared love for science brought together Science Olympiad students from around the state for a day filled with competition.

In a tremendous display of teamwork and dedication, the Mason High School (MHS) Science Olympiad team hosted its inaugural in-person invitational on November 11, 2023.

The event, which came after months of meticulous planning and collaboration, brought together 15 teams from across Ohio and approximately 225 competitors for a day filled with unique events, friendly competition and scientific exploration.

The invitational showcased not only the academic strengths of the participants but also the leadership and collaborative spirit of the Mason team, led by senior captains Grace Chi, Shriya Parthasarathi, Raymond Wang and junior Nikhil Jain.

This in-person invitational came after two years of hosting online tournaments and required extensive planning. The Science Olympiad team broke up the process into five committees—Concessions, Tournament Logistics, Event Logistics, Sponsorships and Marketing—each led by upperclassmen, to ensure a seamless and enjoyable event.

Junior Annie Wang, head of Tournament Logistics, said that the in-person option was primarily driven by a need to make invitationals more fun for competitors. 

“The traveling, having fun with your friends [and] the whole atmosphere can’t be replicated with just online invites,” Wang said. 

Parthasarathi said the team decided to focus on local connections within the Southwest Ohio region for their first tournament, which is early in the season for many other teams.

“Rather than starting off with a nationwide experience, we wanted to work our way up, making sure we’re supporting everyone at the local level,” Parthasarathi said. “Some teams can only go to one or two tournaments a year, so we wanted to make this experience as accessible as possible.”

As one of the top-ranked teams in the nation, the Mason Science Olympiad team felt it was crucial to give back and offer resources to other schools within their community. Chi said that the support from other Ohio teams was especially appreciated during a debut invite.

“It was very touching to have the confidence and support of other top teams attending,” Chi said. “It just really made it a great experience.” 

Freshmen Mackhoi Hoang and Cody Tang volunteered at the invitational, and are previous Mason Middle School Science Olympiad members as well. Tang said that the difference in the high school team is an inspiring one that motivates students to keep improving.

“The high school experience is one that’s a lot more engaged, and the team as a whole is a lot more inclusive,” Tang said. 

Hoang said that observing and being part of the teamwork involved in making the invitational a reality also strengthened team relationships.

“All [the planning and organizing] definitely brought us closer together,” Hoang said. “The team is really just one big family, and they’re willing to put in the work together for this shared goal.”

The event saw a significant turnout, with teams coming from as far as four hours away and over 200 competitors participating in 23 events, including two trials: Taylor Trivia (a trivia game around pop artist Taylor Swift) and Bot (a robot-acting competition).

The tournament also awarded top rankings in each category with unusual prizes, like stuffed animals and funny children’s books, to add to their usual medals.

Wang said the diverse range of competitions, whether it be from astronomy to anatomy, or forestry to forensics, demonstrated the multifaceted talents and interests of the participants.

“We worked really hard to make this fun beyond just the science, and I think it was a success,” Wang said. 

The team’s head coach, Steven Seiler, is a former Science Olympiad participant himself and acknowledges the valuable life skills gained from taking part in the competition. Seiler said that the teamwork, critical thinking, creativity and optimization he learned are all skills he applies daily. 

“Science Olympiad is a great experience for future scientists and engineers,” Seiler said. “Not just [because of] what they learn in their events but the tools it provides them for their careers.” 

As the team looks towards the future, Tang said that the growth of both the team and the tournament are a priority. 

“We’re hoping that in these next few years, we can really grow this tournament to support even more teams and encourage even more people to participate,” Tang said. 

Wang said the event not only provided a platform for intense scientific competition, but also served as a catalyst for building connections within the Ohio Science Olympiad community, reinforcing the spirit of collaboration and shared passion for science.

“I’m glad so many teams came,” Wang said. “It gives us a chance to connect with other Ohio competitors and share the Science Olympiad experience.”