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Midvale Journal

Hillcrest High Qualified for Science Olympiad State Tournament

Apr 07, 2016 02:27PM ● By Kelly Cannon

By Kelly Cannon | [email protected]

Midvale - The Hillcrest High School Science Olympiad team walked away from the regional competition on Feb. 20 with enough points to qualify for the state tournament. The team competed against 17 other teams at Snow College in more than 20 events based around different science topics. 

“You work with a partner to conduct experiments, complete tasks or take a test,” Vivek Vankayalapati, a 16-year-old sophomore who is co-president of the science club, said. 

Events at the competition include building a ping-pong cannon, identifying fossils or species and conducting experiments. Subjects covered in the competition include chemistry, Earth and space, inquiry and the nature of science, technology and engineering, and life and personal science.

Hillcrest High took 16 participants to the competition. The competitors came from all grade levels. 

Vankayalapati and his partner competed in astronomy, fossil identification, air trajectory and the “Wright Stuff,” which was a study of airplanes and flight. 

“I chose those because of my experience last year and my interest in those subjects,” Vankayalapati said. “And who doesn’t love launching ping-pong balls?”

The team has been preparing for the competition since the end of November. Each group prepared differently, depending on which part of the competition they were going to participate in. Some of the events allowed notes and study guides, such as the exams and the identification. 

Vankayalapati said the most difficult part of the competition was the “Wright Stuff,” where the pair would have to construct a rubber-band airplane. 

“It was difficult to construct because it was delicate wood,” Vankayalapati said. “It can break after multiple tests.”

Vankayalapati’s favorite part of the competition was astronomy because it is something he’s really passionate about. He also enjoyed the air trajectory portion because he’s done it in the past and is dedicated to the event. 

Alex Mettler is a science teacher at Hillcrest and has been the coach of the Science Olympiad team for the past two years. He competed in the Science Olympiad team when he was in high school, and he was asked to coach it when he was hired. Mettler said Vankayalapati and his other co-president really helped him figure out how the competition works. 

“They really guided me through the process and showed me the ins and outs,” Mettler said. 

Hillcrest has consistently done well at the Science Olympiad over the years. The team placed sixth in state last year, and they hope to move up in the ranks enough to compete at the national competition. 

“We represent really well because we have a strong science program,” Mettler said. 

Mettler also believes the team does well each year because Hillcrest is an authorized International Baccalaureate school. The international program promotes rigorous curriculum and high standards of learning. Mettler said the program attracts many students to enroll at Hillcrest who live outside of the school boundaries. 

The team received a grant from the Utah STEM Foundation to help pay for travel expenses. The team also receives support from both the school and the district. Hillcrest is currently the only school in the Canyons School District that competes in the Science Olympiad. 

The state Science Olympiad is set to take place on April 23 at the University of Utah. For more information about the Science Olympiad, visit