By Jessica Oates
After winning two first place awards at the Regional Science Olympiad, Robbinsville High sophomores Mehaa Gupta and Priyanka Singh will be taking it to the next level.
The duo earned first place honors in Experimental Design, with partner Agrima Agnihotri, and in Forensics at the regional competition, which took place at Camden County Community College on Jan. 6. Next stop for the pair and their Robbinsville High teammates: the state competition in Edison at Middlesex County Community College on March 12.
The Forensics category requires detective work, as competitors test chemicals to solve mock crimes. In Experimental Design, participants are challenged to solve problems by testing variables in experiments that they plan themselves. The Science Olympiad is an international nonprofit organization dedicated to raising student interest in science and improving the quality of science education.
One of the most important attributes of a successful participant in any Science Olympiad competitor is self-motivation, said Sushma Singh, Singh’s mother and an Olympiad coach. Agnihotri, Gupta and Singh have proven they possess that ever since they signed up for Science Olympiad together as 6th graders.
“We practiced a lot,”Agnihotri said. “Every single weekend. Every day during break. Whenever we get time.”
Sushma proudly spoke of the initiative that her daughter took when Priyanka was in sixth grade to try out for Science Olympiad.
“She came home and told me that she had qualified, that she had made it into Science Olympiad,” Sushma said. “I was very impressed that she had taken the initiative to sign up and try out for the organization. I could tell that she must have a deep interest in this, and I decided I should get involved and support her as much as I could.”
Sushma has done just that. She has been her daughter’s coach for Singh’s entire Science Olympiad career. She hosts regular Sunday study sessions in her home for Singh and her teammates.
“We test each other,” Singh said. “We ask each other questions, take written tests…it is a lot of practice.”
In addition to study time at home, Science Olympians participate in after school meetings, overseen by the club advisor, Susan Wiedman. Club meetings are a time for students to work together practicing experiments, fundraising and growing their chapter.
“The club has come such a long way since the chapter was first started four years ago,” Wiedman says. “The students do a great job fundraising, but we are always looking for new sponsors.”
The chapter advisor said team work is essential in competitions like these. Students share their ideas with each other, as well as their knowledge. This is how real success happens.
A very hands-on learner, Singh said Science Olympiad is a great opportunity for her to gain real experience and to get a sense of the subjects she enjoys most. It also helps her gain experience in her desired career field.
“I plan to be a doctor one day,” Singh says. “I really enjoy learning about how the body works.”
Some of her favorite subjects in science include anatomy, particularly the intricacies of the nervous system. Singh mentions that one of her favorite learning experiences at school is when she gets to participate in a dissection in science class. Though not exactly sure just yet which field of medicine she plans to enter, Singh says that surgery is a definite possibility.
“A few of my family members are doctors,” Singh said. “My parents definitely support this goal.”
With two-first place awards under her belt, Singh said she is confident as she and her teammates prepare for the fast-approaching state competition. They’ll use the formula that has worked well over the last four years.
“We will be doing a lot of studying in the weeks to come,” Singh says. “This is one of the most exciting parts about science, that there is always more to learn and more to practice.”