In 1985, the first Science Olympiad team from Thomas Jefferson Middle School took a partial team of about 10 enthusiastic students to Indiana University Northwest to compete at the state competition. The team placed 10th out of a field of 16 teams. In 1986, Carol Haller and Richard Bender teamed up to coach the squad, and better preparation resulted in a place of 4th out of a field of 20 at state. In 1988 and 89’ the team placed a close second, narrowly missing a trip to national competition.
In 1990, Thomas Jefferson finally won their first state title and trip to national competition at Clarion University in Clarion, Pennsylvania. Since that time the team has won 23 state titles and earned 26 straight trips to the national competition. Along the way, they have won two national titles, three second places, two thirds, one fourth, one fifth, and one sixth at national competition.
On Saturday, the 2016 team won the regional title at Indiana University Northwest out of a field of 17.
This earned them the right to compete at Indiana University on March 19 with a field of 30 teams. The winning team advances to national competition at University of Wisconsin Stoudt in late May.
On Saturday, TJ earned first place as a team with the low score of 62 points, Stanley Clark of Goshen had 99 points, Chesterton had 111 points, and Wilbur Wright earned 126 points. Teams compete in 23 nationally sanctioned events and teams are scored with one point for first, two for second, etc. A perfect score would be 23 points.
Thomas Jefferson's team consisted of freshmen Daniel Hu, Justin Stowers, Hannah Mitchell, Charlie Trowbridge, and Kourtney Collier. Daniel earned medals in Disease Detectives, Green Generation, and Anatomy. Justin medaled in Gliders, Wind Power, Mission Possible, and Roller Coaster. Hannah medaled in Experimental Design, Food Science, Bio Process, and Scrambler. Charlie earned medals in Gliders, Mission Possible, Crave the Wave, and Roller Coaster. Kourtney medaled in Experimetal Design, Picture This, and Crime Busters.
The team also had 8th graders Ali Will who medaled in Picture This and Bio Process, Zach Hatseras medaled in Airjectory and Invasive Species, and Teresa Nelson garnering medals in Airjectory, Invasive Species, and Anatomy.
Other team members are Lauren Skadberg medaling in Food Science, and Scrambler, Adam Biggs earning hardware in Fossils and Reach for the Stars, Zack Heskett medaling in Reach for the Stars and Meteorology, Ari Kessler earning medals in Road Scholar and Crave the Wave, Calvin McMurtrey medaling in Disease Detectives, Green Generation, and Wind Power, Caden Hamscher earning top honors in Fossils and Meteorology, Devishi Jha medaling in Road Scholar, Experimental Design, and Crime Busters, and 6th grader Max Trowbridge earning medals in Potions and Poisons and Game On.
The team practices on Mondays and Wednesdays from 3-4:30pm, Tuesday and Thursdays 6-7:30pm, Friday 3-4:30pm at the Valparaiso University Planetarium for Astronomy, and Saturdays 10-2:30pm. The team's success depends on phenomenally supportive parents and a cast of volunteer coaches, community support, and alumni support. Other local teams advancing to state competition are Ben Franklin Middle School, Westville, and St. Thomas More, and Kahler and Valparaiso High School.