FLOWERY BRANCH — More than 15 students from Whitlow Elementary School returned victorious after winning first place in the recent Science Olympiad regional competition in nearby Flowery Branch.
“I am unbelievably proud,” said Brenda Mahoney, teacher and Olympiad team coach. “We practiced for two and a half hours every Thursday, rain or shine.”
Whitlow students took home 18 medals, including four first-place finishes: Bevin Hunter in the weather or not category; Noah Wetz in the water rockets; Emily Cesa for leaf and tree finder; and both Wetz and Austin Malone in bridge building.
The team, comprised of students in third through fifth grade, participated in all 18 of the events at the competition, which drew about 200 students from 10 teams. Sawnee Elementary placed third.
The activities featured a variety of hands-on events such as bridge building, where students used straws, a meter of masking tape and two chairs to build the sturdiest bridge.
The bridges were tested by placing clay on top of them. Students also gauged the durability of towers they built.
Students tested their thinking, clue-finding and navigational skills with events such as crime busters and map reading. They also participated in chemistry and rocketry.
Mahoney said her students swept the water rockets category after a lot of trial and error.
“They’d have an awesome design, but when we went to county and state, they wouldn’t launch,” she said of previous years. “This year, all three went rockets went off ... it was beautiful and the kids were beyond excited. That typically is a very hard challenge.”
In addition to being impressed with her students’ performances during the competition, Mahoney said she pleased with their sportsmanship.
“They were so proud of their teammates,” she said. “Sometimes when you get kids in a large space, they can be crazy. But they were such awesome competitors and respectful of the environment.”
The top three finishers advance to the State Science Olympiad on May 17 at Kennesaw State University. Mahoney said her group will bring nearly 20 students, including alternates.
Before the state competition, however, Mahoney’s team will have one more practice run April 12, when the Forsyth County Science Olympiad is held at Lambert High.
Charles Phelps of the FCN regional staff contributed to this report.