It was an early-release day at Carson Middle School, but Kathleen Bryant stayed afterward digging in her backpack for a socket wrench.
Any 13-year-old would pack the same way if the nuts from a handmade harp were continuously working loose and rendering strings disharmonious during pieces like "Aura Lee."
"The strings stretch out every time, so you always have to tune them," Kathleen said, applying the socket wrench to the nut of a rattling string.
This Saturday, she and 14-year-old Brian Lester, who built a washtub bass, will pluck out a one-octave scale during an event called "Sounds of Music" at the Science Olympiad at Western Nevada Community College.
Competitors in "Sounds of Music" need to build both a bass and treble instrument. Judges will inquire how they built their instruments and how the design attributes to musical play.
The strings on Kathleen's instrument, for example, are stretched into a wooden cylindrical frame of equal thickness across the top and bottom so the tension stays the same on each string.
"You get judged on how good your workmanship is, so you have to perfect it," she said.
More than a dozen teams from across the state will participate, including one each from Eagle Valley and Carson middle schools.
According to teacher Mary Stanley, who is coordinating the Olympiad team of 15 students from Carson Middle School, the daylong event at the community college is the first in Carson City.
"And it's probably going to be the only time it will be at WNCC," she said. "It's been in Las Vegas for two years. And it was at (the University of Nevada, Reno) for three years."
Students can participate in 23 events, and each member must compete in two to three events. The winners of the middle school and high school levels are eligible to attend the National Science Olympiad. For more information, see www.soinc.org.
Bobby Otsuka and Connor Farrell, both 12, look forward to their events of Mission Possible and Mystery Architecture. Bobby is also doing Roads Scholar and Connor is competing in Solar System.
"I'm getting kind of nervous that we won't finish our project," said Connor swirling a roll of duct tape around his arm and talking about Mission Possible, which requires a series of simple machines to unleash a rolling tube of toilet paper.
"We're getting frustrated because Mission Possible is not even finished yet," Bobby said.
They plan to use two-ply paper - they think it will roll the best.
• Contact reporter Maggie O'Neill at firstname.lastname@example.org or 881-1219.
If you go
WHAT: State Science Olympiad competition
WHEN: 8 a.m.-4 p.m. Saturday with the award presentation starting about 4 p.m.
WHERE: Western Nevada Community College, 2201 W. College Parkway
CALL: Mary Stanley, 283-2800
Teams to participate:
Middle schools: Hyde Park, Carson, Coral Academy of Science, Keller, Eagle Valley, Greenspun Junior High and Fertitta
High Schools: Green Valley, Spanish Springs, Coral Academy of Science, Pershing County, Las Vegas, Fernley High and Palo Verde