University of Wisconsin-Platteville Professor and Chair of Mathematics Dr. Barb Barnet has been leading the way as the Science Olympiad head coach at Platteville High School since 2010. Science Olympiad is a national K-12 STEM competition with state chapters. Throughout the school year, the Platteville team has participated in invitational tournaments and competed in the regional tournament in February. They’re awaiting on results to see if they’re headed to state. Barnet explained how students participating in the program are exposed to a variety of scientific fields, but also to the university.
“[Science Olympiad] gives students the opportunity to extend themselves beyond the courses they might see at the high school level,” said Barnet. “The events are very intensive. A lot of times students are seeing material they wouldn’t see until they got to college. It gives them a taste of a further extension of science classes. It allows students to delve deep into an area that they are thinking about going into later on and learn about it.”
“Student involvement is the key to success,” added Jacob Crase, Platteville High School principal. “Science Olympiad is a great example of the amazing opportunities that we can provide students working together as partners with the university.”
Science Olympiad involves 23 events ranging in the categories of life, personal and social sciences, earth and space science, physical science and chemistry, technology and engineering, and inquiry and nature of science. As students prepare for their competitions, they are also interacting with faculty members from UW-Platteville – creating a strong university-community foundation.
“It helps students see the university can be extremely helpful,” said Barnet. “It allows students to build relationships with the faculty. We talk with a lot of the faculty on campus who help us at times. The students start seeing professors as people and that they can be helpful, which can help them in their future careers. It does make a name for UW-Platteville with those students. We can be a resource for them.”
Throughout the past 12 years, Barnet’s team has grown from five students to nearly 30 members.
“Students take away many things, first is teamwork – they need to work together in order to work through the exam or work through the build events as a team,” said Barnet. “Students gain a greater depth of scientific knowledge – it helps prepare them for college. Self-discipline. They are doing this outside of school, they have to prepare for the competition and study. It makes them into well rounded individuals.”
As the Science Olympiad season is about to wrap up with the state tournament being held in April, Barnet acknowledged her favorite part of coaching is the students and involvement with the area high school.
“They are a great bunch of students,” she said. “The fact they want to do something like this and learn more about science is really neat. I like giving them the opportunity where they can delve deeper into it.”
To learn more about Science Olympiad, visit www.soinc.org.