To say that Ames has historically dominated the State Science OIympiad would be an understatement. The competition that includes chemistry, physics, biology, engineering, and general science categories, among others, has been won by Ames High 25/26 years and Ames Middle 24/27 years. That includes earlier this year when both teams won the Iowa Science Olympiad State Tournament at the University of Northern Iowa. Both teams beat the closest competitor by nearly 50 points and all but 4-5 of the 23 events in each division finished in the top three. Those wins earned them a trip to Ithaca, New York to the National Science Olympiad Tournament at Cornell University, May 31 to June 1.
Science Olympiad is one of the largest science competitions in the nation, with nearly 8,000 teams spanning all 50 states and over 100,000 student participants. A highlight from nationals was having high school team members, Jason Chen and Rishabh Swamy, earn a fifth-place medal for battery buggy. Overall, the high school team scored in the top half of eight of their events and the middle school team scored in the top half for 5 of their events.
This year marks the end of Peg Barbour’s tenure as coach of the science olympiad teams. She has coached Ames’ teams for the past 27 years and found the experience for satisfying. “To say that I am passionate about it is an understatement. I love watching the students learn science material and grow throughout the years.” For many coaches, finding an exit strategy is difficult. Barbour said, “Every year I would say I just need to work with this group of students until they graduate, but then the next group came along and I would say the same thing.”