MC High school hosts Science Olympiad

By on February 10, 2016


Manheim Central High School was a beehive of activity on Saturday as 25 teams from 17 high schools competed in the inaugural MC Barons Invitational Science Olympiad Competition. Some of the school were from the local area, including Elizabethtown High School, Central York, Red Land and Bermudian Springs. Other schools were from Maryland, Delaware, the Poconos and metropolitan areas such as Philadelphia, Allentown, and Washington, D.C.

Hosted by the two-year-old MCHS science club, the competition’s 23 events included bridge building, air trajectory, anatomy and physiology, astronomy, electric vehicle, forensics, fossils, geologic mapping, protein modeling, and wind power.

“The students drove this. Two years ago, I had a group of students who wanted to form a science club. This year they wanted to host a competition, so we began planning it,” explained Renee Kowalchik, Manheim Central chemistry teacher and club advisor. “The Science Olympiad is a national completion covering all areas of science. Competitions such as ours help teams prepare for regional events.”

The regional for our area will be held March 19 at Millersville University. The top teams from there will compete at a state completion, and the top two teams from the state will compete at nationals. She credits club members, members of the school’s Interact Club and National Honor Society for their assistance in coordinating and staffing Manheim Central’s science competition. The all-day competition began with registration at 7:30 a.m. and concluded with an awards presentation at 4 p.m.

The school’s science club is comprised of a mix of freshmen, sophomores, juniors and seniors. Although their specific interests vary, they all share an interest in science.

“As a team, we’re here to learn and have a bit of fun,” said Caleb Weaver, a Manheim Central junior who serves as co-president of the science club and the school’s science honor society.

During the competition, student teammates worked in pairs during their specific event. Manheim Central senior Emily Stoltzfus said that as a junior she competed in anatomy and physiology, but this year’s she’s competing in protein modeling. She explained that the first step in her project involves working on a computer, then she and her teammate actually construct a model.

“It’s challenging, but it’s also very interesting,” she said.


Manheim Central science club members and seniors Anna Burkhart (left) and Charis Dinger (right) work on a project during the forensics event at the MC Barons Invitational Science Olympiad Competition on Saturday. (Photos by Rochelle Shenk)

Manheim Central science club members and seniors Anna Burkhart (left) and Charis Dinger (right) work on a project during the forensics event at the MC Barons Invitational Science Olympiad Competition on Saturday. (Photos by Rochelle Shenk)


The competition’s events mostly utilized classrooms and science labs. However some events required a larger area and/or higher ceilings and were held in the gym and auxiliary gym. One such event was air trajectory. Manheim Central senior Dan Tran and junior Nick Thomas partnered as the team’s competitors in this event.

Tran said that another senior competed for the team in last year’s event, and this year’s project builds off of what he learned. The idea is to launch a table tennis ball from an air cannon at targets that aren’t specified until the event begins. Thomas explained that there are a number of restrictions regarding the width, length and height of the air cannon as well as where student competitors are allowed to stand to launch the tennis ball.

“We’ve used our knowledge of physics and chemistry to create the cannon,” Tran explained, “What we’re using today doesn’t look anything like what we started out with earlier in the school year. The air cannon really has been created in the past month. We were at a competition in January and learned some things by watching other competitors.”

It’s constructed of PVC tubing, a plastic two-liter bottle that’s housed in a three-sided box to keep it in place, and a weight Like the design of the air cannon, the weight itself was created by the teammates.

“The weight is where the chemistry came into play,” Thomas said.


Manheim Central science club members Dan Tran (left) and Nick Thomas (right) demonstrate the air cannon they created.

Manheim Central science club members Dan Tran (left) and Nick Thomas (right) demonstrate the air cannon they created.


Tran, Thomas, Stoltzfus and Weaver said that they work on their competition projects during club time at school and also after school.

“It’s really a way to apply what we learn in class as well as from independent research,” Weaver said.

Rochelle Shenk is a correspondent for the Lititz Record Express. She welcomes your comments and questions at

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