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Murray Journal

Murray High team wins state Science Olympiad contest, expands knowledge in STEM

May 30, 2022 04:40PM ● By Julie Slama

By Julie Slama | [email protected]

It was the first contest result announced: Murray High wins.

The team of seniors Relena Pattison, Sam Siwik and Mary Seeley stood in recognition of their accomplishment of being code busters contest champions at the state Science Olympiad, held April 9 at Southern Utah University in Cedar City.

In the competition, teams had to cryptanalyze and decode encrypted messages using cryptanalysis techniques for historical and modern advanced ciphers.

“I really liked code busters,” Seeley said. “I like deciphering the code and trying to figure out what it was and just doing all the possibilities.”

It was the return of in-person state competition, something only one Murray High student had experienced prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, Murray High School adviser Aaron Daniels said.

“Only our captain, Abby Niwa, participated when it was in-person because last year, it was online here,” he said. “This was great for them to have this experience where they can go and try some events and meet some others. A lot of our students end up becoming interested in science careers and like the Science Olympiad program gives them some incentives to learn, but it’s not associated with their grades so they’re more comfortable trying to do things out of their comfort zone.”

Murray had other top 12 finishes including Pattison taking fourth in cell biology with senior Sara Whitley; Whitley also placed fourth in anatomy and physiology; Niwa and Pattison took seventh in chem lab; and the team of Siwik and junior Wyatt Daniels took eighth in trajectory. Niwa and Pattison took 11th in ping pong parachute; Niwa and Siwik and Seeley took 12th in experimental design; Whitley took 12th in forensics; Wyatt Daniels and Seeley took 12th in Write it, do it; and Junior Sunshine Goss placed 12th in astronomy and ornithology.

“We had some flukes happen in competition. I think with our catapult, they kind of overcorrected and their balls had pretty good depth, but went a little sideways,” the coach said. “And the day before we left, the parachute broke, it ripped. So, they had to make a new parachute the day of and so they were working with parachutes they weren’t used to working with.”

Murray also competed in a regional Science Olympiad tournament leading up to state where both the catapult and parachute worked; Wyatt Daniels took second in trajectory and Niwa placed third in ping pong parachute contest.

Competing at the Science Olympiad is a part of the two branches of Murray High’s STEM club. The other part is competing with VEX robotics.

Spartans Emma Isert, Natan Lively, Aaron Farr and Mira Martin joined the others to compete with the 2-foot by 2-foot VEX robots in competitions this year.

“We finished in the middle of like 60 teams in our first competition. The second one, they had to redo our robot because it was having some problems, but they still had fun,” Daniels said about the competition that first automatically matches up teams in the morning before afternoon play when top teams select their alliances.

With this year’s robotics play, Tipping Point, two-team alliances are trying to win by getting the most points when they move rings, move mobile goals to alliance zones and elevate onto platforms at the end of the two-minute match. The play begins with an autonomous period before students take over driving the controls. All this takes place in a 12-foot by 12-foot field.

Seely said she appreciates having the hands-on learning opportunity.

“I liked how you can build the robot from scratch as a team and work on it by adding different components,” she said. “We planned out what we wanted it to do with the different parts. It was really enjoyable.”

Daniels said interactive learning is his goal for the team.

“I want the kids to have fun and be engaged; that’s more important to me than winning,” he said. “There’s some programming and construction engineering they’re learning. I think kids understand there’s a ton of their future around robots.”

Murray High’s STEM club began when a student approached Daniels wanting to have that hands-on experience and start a robotics team. Daniels included Science Olympiad as a part of the club.

“Our club give our students opportunities to explore a variety of fields under the umbrella of science and technology; they’re learning material that isn’t in class and getting some hands-on opportunities in engineering,” he said. “They’re also working as a team and some of these kids aren’t typically interested in other team activities or sports in high schools, so this is their chance to socialize, network and compete with others who have similar interests—and to be recognized for their academic pursuits.”