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WMU hosts regional Science Olympiad contest

March 10, 2008

KALAMAZOO--The brightest "intelletes" from 26 area middle and high schools will convene on the campus of Western Michigan University Saturday, March 15, to compete in the 2007-08 South-Central Michigan Science Olympiad Regional Tournament.

Michigan Science Olympiad describes an "intellete" as someone who demonstrates exceptional performance in an academic pursuit. The term was originally coined when, upon searching for a place to house their trophy, one team discovered the only available location was outside the principal's office in the athletes' showcase. The administration was later convinced to build a similar "intelletes' showcase" to laud the achievements of the school's most outstanding scholars.

Science Olympiad unites so-called "intelletes" from middle and high schools across the country in rigorous team competitions that test their scientific knowledge and skill levels. If brain is the new brawn, Science Olympiad is the equivalent of the Super Bowl. With regional and state competitions comparable to high school football state championships, the initiative is considered a major event among students, families and educators in participating districts.

Competing at WMU will be the program's South-Central Michigan division, Region 10, which comprises the brightest young people from Allegan, Barry, Branch, Calhoun, Hillsdale and Kalamazoo counties.

"It provides an excellent avenue for some of the best local minds to compete in a friendly academic environment," says Scot Conant of WMU's College of Engineering and Applied Sciences. "These students will compete in events covering the areas of applied sciences, health sciences, and engineering. Access to the outstanding faculty and facilities here at WMU will add to their learning experience."

Marty Buehler, Region 10 director for Michigan Science Olympiad and head of Hastings High School's science department, agrees. When he stepped in as director, his region had no place to call home. As a WMU alumnus, he immediately recognized the wealth of untapped resources that flourished in the University's atmosphere of learning.

"I knew WMU was perfectly suited to host the event," Buehler says. "A major college campus instead of another high school building is different and more exciting for the kids. It is good for them to see what is out there."

After agreeing to host the competition, the University's involvement expanded naturally. Faculty and staff members stepped up to get involved, offering to run events as supervisors and experts in the various fields. It wasn't long before WMU was functioning more as a partner than a mere tournament facility.

"We have over 25 WMU faculty and staff involved," Conant says. "Add to that the dozens of student volunteers and we are looking at a large WMU contingent involved with this competition."

After battling at WMU, the top-three high school and top-two middle school teams from Region 10 will advance to the state finals April 26 at Michigan State. From there, all sights are set on the national tournament, held the last weekend in May at George Washington University.

Science Olympiad is the most prestigious team science and technology competition in North America. It's been praised by business leaders for its innovation and contribution to improving scientific and technological literacy, as well as for helping to ensure the nation's global competitiveness. More than 14,000 elementary and secondary teams from Canada and all 50 states compete in the Science Olympiad each year. Michigan has some 500 secondary schools participating, more than any other state in the nation.

A complete list of Kalamazoo-area middle and high schools competing in the South-Central Michigan Science Olympiad Regional Tournament follows.

Participating Region 10 middle schools: Athen Middle School, Gagie School, Hamilton Middle School, Hastings Middle School, Holland Christian North Shore, Holland Christian South Shore, Litchfield Middle School, Martin Middle School, Milwood Magnet School, Moline Christian Middle School, and St. Augustine School.

Participating Region 10 high schools: Camden-Frontier High School, Fennville High School, Hamilton High School, Hastings High School, Hillsdale High School, Holland Christian High School, Kalamazoo Central High School, Lakeview High School, Litchfield High School, Martin High School, Parchment High School, Portage Central High School, Portage Northern High School, Thornapple Kellogg High School, and Wayland Union High School.

Media contact: Tonya Hernandez, (269) 387-8400, tonya.hernandez@wmich.edu

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