Above, the Van Nuys High School team celebrates its second-place win in the Los Angeles County Science Olympiad. Members are: Micaela Soria, Diana Chernyak, Eduard Galumyan, Gavin Groode, Maya Peterson, Joel Bisarra, Tommy Chan, Theresa Nguyen, David Park, Lacthu Vu, Teresa Thomas, Rita Thomas, Angelina Songco, Luciana Soria and Nathan Oh.

By Diana Chernyak
Van Nuys High School

Van Nuys High student Angelina Songco competes in the regional Science Olympiad.

In a challenge of their STEM skills and teamwork, students from Van Nuys High captured second place in the Los Angeles County Science Olympiad, qualifying their team for its third attempt at the state title.

This is the fifth year that Van Nuys High has competed in the Olympiad, which encourages student interest and achievement in science. A team competes in events that focus on different aspects of biology, earth science, chemistry, physics and technology. In the regional competition held last month at Antelope Valley College, 37 schools competed in 23 events, covering topics across the science, technology, engineering and math fields.

The Van Nuys team placed in the top six spots in 13 events, and each member won a medal in at least one event. The team placed first in the Microbe Mission event; second in Ecology, Fermi Questions, in which a seemingly impossible-to-calculate answer is estimated, and Mission Possible, which requires the construction of a Rube Goldberg-type device. They placed third in Astronomy, Chemistry Lab, Optics, Thermodynamics and Disease Detectives, which tested students’ knowledge of food-borne illness. Van Nuys also won fourth place in Anatomy and Physiology, Rocks and Minerals, Herpetology and Dynamic Planet, which focuses on plate tectonics.

The team consists of Captain Micaela Soria, Vice Captain Diana Chernyak, and members Joel Bisarra, Tommy Chan, Eduard Galumyan, Gavin Groode, Theresa Nguyen, Nathan Oh, David Park, Maya Peterson, Angelina Songco, Luciana Soria, Rita Thomas, Teresa Thomas, and Lacthu Vu. With seven seniors, four juniors and four sophomores, the team is prepared to tackle the level of competition at State. Southern California is known for its high competitiveness, but that does not deter the Van Nuys team from working to compete for the top spot.

“Science Olympiad is a team competition. An individual cannot move to State Finals, only a team can, and the result from this is a true community of driven, science-loving students,” Soria said.

Science Olympiad truly fosters the bonding of individuals over their love of science, and the rewards gleaned from seeing the results of their hard work has ultimately motivated the team to continue to work hard every day. The members of the team have all gained valuable skills in preparing for the competition.

“The part of Science Olympiad that I have most enjoyed is the ability to experiment with different physical and chemical processes in order to build the devices for each event,” said Galumyan, who headed the engineering events. “This program has given me the opportunity to apply my textbook knowledge into the physical world with the use of high-tech machinery.” .

Bisarra said preparing for the Olympiad is more than simply memorizing facts and formulas.

“A much more important aspect to learning is to apply,” he said. “I had to let go of my desire to study on my own in favor of being with a team, understanding how to cooperate and work with others.”

The Van Nuys Science Olympiad team is looking to build resources and support by working with the school and its teachers. Support is also coming from other students who are now eager to help out the team by sharing their skills. This truly challenges students to push deep into different realms of science to fully understand what STEM is. This competition encourages students to apply all that they have learned while working with others, preparing them for their future endeavors.

“Science Olympiad is the place where I can discover and develop my curiosity further!” Nguyen said.