Over the past few years, Science Olympiad has become a major extracurricular activity for many students in Chappaqua. Science Olympiad is considered the premier team STEM competition in the nation, providing standards-based challenges to 6,000 teams at 425 tournaments in all 50 states. Teams of 15 students compete in pairs in 23 different topics, called “events”, which cover a wide array of science areas. The competition not only gives students opportunities to learn about areas of science that would not normally be covered in traditional school curriculum, but also emphasizes the importance of collaboration and problem-solving in STEM fields.
After witnessing the impact of COVID-19 on Science Olympiad tournaments, Chloe Ng and Erin Song, longtime Science Olympiad competitors as well as current rising seniors at Horace Greeley High School, founded the Horace Greeley Invitational (“HG Invitational”) in summer 2022. HG Invitational is an online tournament for the middle school division that acts as practice run for teams preparing for their regional and state tournaments. It was one of the few sanctioned Science Olympiad tournaments in New York State this year. One of the most unique characteristics of the invitational was that home-schooled students were able to compete as well, an opportunity usually not provided.
“We wanted to create a competition that replicated the Science Olympiad tournament experience that we missed out during the COVID-19 pandemic while also providing an opportunity for competitors to gain a deeper understanding of their Science Olympiad events,” says HG Invitational Co-Organizer Chloe Ng.
Ng and Song spent about nine months organizing and preparing to host the tournament. In addition, they managed a team of sixteen other Horace Greeley students who volunteered to help write and grade tests and act as event supervisors for over 20 different events.
One major challenge of creating HG Invitational, according to HG Invitational Co-Organizer Erin Song, was that “We had to build the tournament from scratch.” This type of tournament had never been done in the Westchester area before, so the team had to figure out everything, from competition week logistics to team finances, on their own.
Although the planning process was challenging, Song and Ng’s hard work paid off, as the tournament was a massive success. Over 500 students participated from schools in New York, California, Washington, and more. It also raised over $2,000 from tournament fees for Horace Greeley High School’s Science Olympiad academic team, of which Ng and Song are captains.
Meadow Zhang, a test creator and grader for the invitational, explains that her main goal was to “give students a variety of question types to prepare them for Regionals and States.” Zhang mentioned that the HG Invitational was well run and the team was thoughtful to make it intuitive and well designed.
In some ways, Ng comments, organizing this tournament was like creating a startup. “We had an idea, pitched it to school administrators who had to sign off for it to be sanctioned by New York State Science Olympiad, raised capital to jumpstart the tournament, and had customers (middle school Science Olympiad teams) for whom we had to provide a good experience,” says Ng. “In many ways, this was not just about Science for me but also gave me insights into business management and administration.” Incidentally, the Seven Bridges Middle School Science Olympiad Team which placed 1st in the HG Invitational did amazingly well this past season, placing 2nd in the New York State tournament, thereby earning a spot for the National Tournament for the first time in all of Chappaqua Central School District history.
Song and Ng are looking forward to repeating their Invitational tournament in 2024 and have been thinking about ways to improve the student experience even more. For next year, “Setting a timeline is one of our main goals,” the two have stated. Additionally, Song says, “We look forward to potentially expanding our team. We also hope to inspire Greeley’s incoming underclassmen so they can pick up after we leave and make the HG Invitational an annual tradition at Greeley.” Ultimately, the pair is excited for the future of the Science Olympiad in both the middle schools and high schools!