2017-04-06 / News

Lawn students showcase science skills


Lawn students Evan Tuttle, Chris Perrotti, Michael McGrady and Dylan Koch, left to right, with the model plane they built from paper, rubber bands and tape during the Science Olympiad. Lawn students Evan Tuttle, Chris Perrotti, Michael McGrady and Dylan Koch, left to right, with the model plane they built from paper, rubber bands and tape during the Science Olympiad. While most Lawn School students prefer to leave science in school when the Friday afternoon bell rings, a group of their classmates were immersed in the subject Saturday.

A team of 20 seventh- and eighth-graders competed in the statewide Science Olympiad, an annual competition at Rhode Island College. For the contest, the teams are split into smaller groups so they can complete 20 different projects, which range from identification quizzes to the Rube Goldberg machine.

The Lawn School team, which was coached by science teacher Jim Kaczynski, included 15 members and five alternatives. All 20 students belong to Kaczynski’s after-school science club, which has been using its afternoons to build large-scale projects in preparation for the Olympiad. The club gets the students ready for competition. Among the items built during the after-school club was a Popsicle stick tower for an experiment to test weight limits.

“It’s a time to gather together the teams and decide what event certain students want to do,” he said.

The students choose the events that fascinate them, and each member took part in three or four events during the day. Kaczynski said most students were able to participate in their first or second choice. For example, Kendal Donovan and Cameron Chadronet represented Lawn by identifying various invasive species in North America. Kendal picked the event because of her interest in animals.

“We were in a lecture hall, and they had a Powerpoint with two questions per slide,” she said. “We had two minutes to get through them.”

Students also competed in a research challenge about human anatomy. During another event, they participated in a flight experiment by building a model airplane from classroom materials and flying it as far as possible across the room.

For the “Mission Possible” event, students Julia Cotsonas, Molly Egan and Jayden White tested out an elaborate Rube Goldberg-style machine that was built over the course of 10 weeks. The complex contraption was created by linking together a series of devices that perform simple tasks to produce a domino effect in which activating one device triggers the next device in the sequence.

“They had to design a contraption that starts with a specific task and ends with a specific task, and do energy transfers in between,” Kaczynski said. “They had to start with pulling a plunger and end with the flag raising.”

The event had to be completed in exactly 76 seconds. Jamestown’s machine completed its task in seven seconds, which was way too quick for the judges.

“We were quite a bit off,” Kaczynski said.

Kaczynski and the other coaches are not allowed to be in the room while the students are competing, but they do chaperone the teams to the events.

He said scoring is akin to golf, with the lower score being better. The team with the best result at the end of each event gets one point, while the second best gets two, and so on. Once all the events are complete, the team with the lowest amount of points is deemed the overall winner of the Science Olympiad.

Jamestown placed 10th out of 24 competing middle schools from across the state. They took home first place in one event, a wind turbine building challenge, in which they were represented by Nina Kent and Clara Maddox. Another Jamestown student, Ben Cowan, was part of a multi-school team that won the Science Bowl, a Jeopardy-style quiz.

Kaczynski said his team is happy with their achievements in the Olympiad, regardless of where they ranked or how many gold medals they took home.

“It’s a very good, successful year,” he said. “I think every year is very successful because they’re doing science after school and doing something that they want. I think this group in particular had a lot of fun and that’s how I measure my success.”

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