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TMCNet:  Fleetwood wins Berks Science Olympiad, again

[January 11, 2013]

Fleetwood wins Berks Science Olympiad, again

Jan 11, 2013 (Reading Eagle - McClatchy-Tribune Information Services via COMTEX) -- It was as if a football star scored a touchdown in a championship game.

Fleetwood High School science students erupted in cheers when it was announced they had finished first in the Berks County Science Olympiad at Kutztown University on Thursday.

For the sixth straight year, Fleetwood's finest science students scored highest among teams from 14 Berks County schools.

Todd Driesbach, a Fleetwood science teacher who coaches the Olympiad team, said Fleetwood has a friendly rivalry with Kutztown and Exeter high schools.

"They're our archrivals," Driesbach said. "The rivalry motivates us to do better." Kutztown finished second and Exeter came in third in the daylong competition in 23 scientific and technological categories. Oley Valley and Wyomissing high schools were fourth and fifth, respectively.

The win gives Fleetwood bragging rights and possession of a trophy named for the late Joanne Burak, an Exeter chemistry teacher credited with founding the Olympiad.

Dan Blanchard, a Kutztown University science instructor, said the event was a warm-up for the Central East Regional Science Olympiad on March 20 at Kutztown University.

All Berks schools are eligible to compete in the regional, regardless of how they fared in Thursday's event. The regional event draws schools from Berks, Lehigh and Northampton counties.

About 300 students, working in teams of two, tackled problems in an array of scientific disciplines, including astronomy, chemistry and thermodynamics.

Building on concepts learned in the classroom, students devised robotic arms, gliders powered by rubber bands and magnetically powered model cars.

Fleetwood's Rachel Keirstead and Veronika Kraft earned a first place in the disease detective category for their knowledge of epidemics.

"We had to figure out the cause, prevention and risk ratios of an epidemic," said Kraft, 17, a senior who plans to enroll in the pre-med curriculum at Keystone College. "We used a lot of biological skills." Oley Valley students Channing Mauger and Janet Peifer registered the highest score ever achieved in the category of remote sensing.

Wayne Sierer, who wrote the tests for the category, said it deals with interpreting satellite images.

"The students use science and mathematical skills in developing an understanding of the Earth's hydrosphere," said Sierer, a retired Wilson science teacher.

Mauger, 17, a senior, credited scoring well to an interest in geography.

"I spend hours looking at maps," said Mauger, who intends to major in geography in college.

Lowell Keebler, Exeter's coach, said the Olympiad exposes students to practical applications of scientific principles.

"It forces them to go above and beyond the classroom," said Keebler, 47, who teaches earth science. "It teaches them to get the most out of science, perhaps even make it a career." Students were given a Berks County Science Olympiad T-shirt that had "May the F=MA Be With You" printed on the back.

F=MA, Sierer explained, is Newton's formula for force.

Contact Ron Devlin: 610-371-5030 or rdevlin@readingeagle.com.

___ (c)2013 the Reading Eagle (Reading, Pa.) Visit the Reading Eagle (Reading, Pa.) at readingeagle.com Distributed by MCT Information Services

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