Cars, catapults, bridges and toilet paper dispensers |

Cars, catapults, bridges and toilet paper dispensers

Jarid Shipley
Appeal Staff Writer
Photos by BRAD HORN/Nevada Appeal Jessica Peterson, 13, of Eagle Valley Middle School, watches her team's three-wheeled vehicle race during the Wheeled Vehicle competition at the state Science Olympiad competition at Western Nevada Community College on Saturday.

At 13 kilograms, Lucas Johnson started to get nervous. While his partner Matthew Byrd continued to pour cup after cup of sand into a bucket suspended from the bridge the boys made, Johnson could only watch and pace as the bridge began to bow.

It was about more than if their creation would survive, it was about winning. The pair was among the 15 students from Carson Middle School who devoted their Saturday to the sciences.

Two Carson City schools, Carson and Eagle Valley middle schools, were among the teams competing at the state Science Olympiad competition, held at Western Nevada Community College.

“The Olympiad is an academic competition in science, but is different from a science fair,” said Dr. Richard Vineyard, event director. “We don’t work on one single project, we compete in a variety of scientific disciplines.”

Seven high schools and eight middle schools from across the state sent teams to the event, offering students the opportunity to compete in 23 events focusing on everything from physics and astronomy to biology and chemistry.

Describing the event as intellectual chaos, Chris Whitcome, Eagle Valley science teacher, said just being there was a huge success.

“This is a big deal for us,” Whitcome said. “These are our best and the brightest kids. This keeps up the interest in science and shows them that science can be building and construction, and it can be put to use.”

Students competed in two to three events, ranging from tests on disease or mystery powders to practical applications like catapults and airplanes.

Students had to slow down a balloon, build a bottle rocket and find a way to make a machine that, using a tennis ball, unrolled toilet paper.

Around noon, Eagle Valley Middle School Students Ariel Sanchez and her partner Jessica Peterson, both 13, were preparing their car for the wheeled-vehicle competition. The goal was to build a car powered by elastics and be able to determine how long it will take the car to travel a set distance.

The teams were scored on how close they got to the exact distance and the accuracy of their time prediction. The only twist was they didn’t know the distance – 5.5 meters – until the day of the competition.

“I do it because it’s fun to be smart. Plus I get to hang out with my friends,” Sanchez said.

Sanchez and Peterson competed against Johnson and his partner Ben Drozdoff, 11. The boys were hoping their calculations and their car, powered using the top of a fishing pole, would drive them to a medal.

“It’s just a fun thing to do. I like science and I enjoy doing it,” Johnson said before dashing off to watch his bridge get tested.

As Byrd continued to add sand, the weight hit 14 kilograms and even Johnson’s teacher, Mary Stanley, started to get nervous.

Slowly the last cup was added and the bucket stabilized.

The bridge held and it won them the gold.

In the end, both Carson City schools fared well, with Carson Middle School taking second place and Eagle Valley finishing third.

• Contact reporter Jarid Shipley at or 881-1217.


Standings at the end of the 23 events of the state Science Olympiad competition:

First Place – Hyde Park Middle School-Las Vegas (Science Magnet School)

Second Place – Carson Middle School

Third Place – Eagle Valley Middle School

Individual medals

Carson Middle School:

• Gold medals in Bridges, Wheeled Vehicle, Compute this, Meteorology, Road Scholar and Storm the Castle.

• Silver medals in Balloon Race, Bottle Rocket, Dynamic and Planet Experimental Design.

• Bronze medals in Awesome Aquifer, Disease Detectives, Science of Fitness and Sounds of Music.

Eagle Valley Middle School:

• Gold medals in Awesome Aquifer, Sounds of Music and Water Quality.

• Silver medals in Don’t Bug Me and Solar System.

• Bronze in Can’t Judge a Powder, Experimental Design, Mission Possible, and Rocks and Minerals.