Daily Independent (Ashland, KY)

Local News

April 18, 2014

Russell Middle School state Science Olympiad champions

RUSSELL — From identifying hundreds of insects to designing and operating mechanical contraptions that just look like insects, a team of Russell Middle School students took their research and technical skills to the Science Olympiad in Bowling Green last week and came back state champions.

The RMS Science Olympiad team outscored teams from schools all across Kentucky to take the top spot, and that makes them eligible to compete in the national competition in May.

Winning is not a new phenomenon for RMS science teams; the victory was the sixth consecutive one for the school and its 10th overall, according to Steve Branim, one of the coaches

The 15 students on the team chose among 23 team events in a wide range of scientific disciplines, from biology to engineering.

Seventh-grader Maya Abul-Khoudoud built a robot and programmed it to operate over an obstacle course. The challenging project taught her principles beyond what she learns in the classroom, she said. “I learned more about motors and gears and robotics in general,” she said during a demonstration of her machine.

Abby McBrayer and Claire Gussler, both seventh-graders, chose an entomology project and found, among other things, that bugs are fascinating creatures. “I never thought I’d be interested in studying bugs, but now I really like entomology,” Gussler said. The competition required them to study bugs up close. They had to be able to master insect anatomy and know the difference between, for instance, acanthopteroctetidae and xiphocentronidae.

“For them to get that excited tells me a lot,” said head coach Derrick Elliott. There is something about competition, an extra edge, that enhances the learning process beyond the classroom, he said.

Parents tell him their children come home knowing things they didn’t learn until their college years, he said.

RMS has two teams of 15 students; the team that won at state and an alternate team of 15. Both will go to the national meet May 17 in Orlando, Fla.

The school has competed nationally in the past and finished somewhere in the middle of the pack.

MIKE JAMES can be reached at mjames@dailyindependent.com or (606) 326-2652.

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