The student news site of Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology


The student news site of Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology


The student news site of Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology


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Science Olympiad places first at Virginia Tech Invitational

Kavya Kuttuva
All three of Jefferson’s Science Olympiad teams pose with their medals on Virginia Tech’s auditorium stage. “It went really well,” senior event director Adi Desai said. “We competed against mainly teams from Virginia, and placed highest among all the teams that competed.”

On Jan. 27, Jefferson’s Science Olympiad team participated in the Virginia Tech Science Olympiad Invitational. Jefferson’s three teams, named “Paper,” “Scissors” and “Rock” participated in the tournament on Saturday, and brought home first, second and third place, respectively.

Many Jefferson alumni who are now at Virginia Tech took part in organizing the tournament.

“It was actually organized by a lot of the ex-officers who used to be on TJ’s team,” senior event director Adi Desai said. “They became key members of Virginia Tech’s tournament, and we’re still very close with them.”

Tournaments consist of a large variety of events, a majority of which are “test events,” covering topics  such as cell biology, epidemiology, optics, geology, and more.

“The prep that goes into studying for test events is practically the same that goes into prep for tests at school,” Desai said. “It’s tons of going through textbooks, preparing cheat sheets, looking at notes, and looking at tests from previous competitions.”

In addition, there are hands-on events called “build events,” which require students to construct a structure based on specific event parameters. Desai helps manage and run these events as part of his position as an event director. For this tournament, build events included constructing an air trajectory device and building a tower to sustain the most weight.

“They tend to be very time consuming,” Desai said. “It’s just you and a partner, and you have to build something completely from scratch that confines to a very complicated rule set and completes a task that’s oftentimes very weird.”

Due to the popularity of Science Olympiad at Jefferson, students must try out for the team each year even if they have made it previously. This allows for teams to be as strong as they can, but also leads to tournament preparation starting late.

“What separates TJ from other very good Science Olympiad teams is that we start from scratch each year with build preparations and test preparations,” Desai said. “We have a real emphasis on actually learning the material in question as opposed to just mindlessly memorizing binders and textbooks of information.”

One of the team’s largest goals is promoting collaborative and teamwork even among the havoc of preparing for the tournament.

“They worked really hard, and this year’s team is gonna make it hard for me to choose the top 15 team. They’re really committed and strong, and they work well together even across the teams,” coach and sponsor Aubrie Holman said. “We’re one team first and three individual teams later. I hope they’re doing it because they want to do more and have more joy, for the fun of it and not for the winning of prizes.”

While both members and sponsors can agree that the team’s performance was great, they agree that there are still places for improvement. 

“It wasn’t anything like not knowing their stuff or not being better at sports, it was really just life skills that we could all work on and so often forget about with the havoc of TJ,” Holman said. “Being ready for TJ everyday takes so much of [the students’] time, so I’m always so proud of them. This is a challenge that no other science Olympiad team has.”

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