Purdue University Northwest (PNW) will welcome 22 local middle and high school Science Olympiad teams on Saturday, Feb. 26 through its annual Science Olympiad regional competition. The regional site is one of seven across Indiana before the state finals at Purdue West Lafayette on March 12.
Science Olympiad, which is an extracurricular featuring multiple team Science, Engineering, Technology, and Math (STEM) activities, has been hosted at PNW’s Hammond campus for more than 20 years. PNW hosts one of the larger local regional events in Indiana. An average year sees around 40 teams in attendance, says Vanessa Quinn, professor of Biology and director of the Regional Science Olympiad Tournament at PNW.
“We have a beautiful location for kids to see what a college campus looks like, especially with the Nils K. Nelson Bioscience Innovation Building,” says Quinn. “We have a great set of faculty, people who have been doing this for years, and who are always willing to step up. We’re also in a location that is accessible to a lot of local teams. It’s an economically available choice and kids’ families are close by to support them.”
With a regional tournament hosted at Northwest Indiana’s premier metropolitan university, Quinn says different relationships are cultivated at PNW. A competitor who goes from middle school through high school has a chance to visit the Hammond campus up to six times. Faculty and staff have a chance to showcase what the PNW academic experience is like and the resources available for STEM activities. Student volunteers at PNW who assist with the event additionally get quality one-on-one time with the staff and faculty. Science Olympiad coaches, who are middle school and high school teachers, also make connections with PNW’s faculty.
“It’s a different STEM experience,” says Quinn. “Competitors have a team environment rather than a summer camp. What science is about is learning from failures, much like being a college researcher. Then the time you get it right is because you used all that information to do the right thing.”