Engineering for Change

SciOly Cultivates a New Generation of Builders, Mechanics, and Scientists.


Sanjida Chowdhury

Brentwood Science Olympiads, also referred to as “SciOly,” is currently in prep season for the annual Long Island science competition for the year 2020. The competition consists of a series of tournaments that lead up to Nationals. On December 7, 2019, the first phase of the competition, known as Invitationals, was hosted at Syosset High School. Invitationals allows for “no-stakes” competing in which districts across the Island are invited to perform a mock competition. While this particular event is seen as a fun opportunity to practice for the official round, Regionals; the tension and stress lingers in the background as students strive for gold.

Science Olympiads is defined as “a scientific-inquiry based club,” promoting academic challenges for students. It functions much like a sports team throughout the school year because training, preparation, and commitment are required by coaches and teammates alike. From structural building events to timed exams, the club improves students’ problem and task solving abilities. According to the Science Olympiad official website, the organization states, “by combining events from all disciplines, Science Olympiad encourages a wide cross-section of students to get involved.” Like matches or meets, the academic sport is a coalition of advisors, teachers, and students in order to create a strong, working environment. 

 The club is not solely for students interested in science, math, and engineering. It’s open to any student who wants to collaborate, participate in fun activities, and represent their school district at competitions. Through participation in the events, the club can help high school students in discovering their interests or potential majors in college. Most importantly, it serves as an academic extracurricular activity where students can gain knowledge and vital skills that can be implemented well after they graduate from high school.

Game On

The hustle and bustle inside an ongoing SciOly meeting is filled with energy, passion, and a touch of anxiety. But don’t let that fool you; when it’s time to buckle down and get into the fierce competing attitude, SciOly students and advisors will pour their time and energy into constructing their robotic inventions, studying up on either Astronomy or Anatomy, and typing up computer programs. Head coaches, Mr. Giannako and Mr. Shnackenberg, work together to run the entire team. Recently, for efficiency and better management, there have been new teachers added within the team. Almost every school day, from 2:05 p.m. to 5:00 p.m., students take up space in the library or in their advisors’ rooms to begin their necessary studying or building preparation. 

The rundown of a competition is as follows: event medals are awarded to the top 10 in each event in Division C and the top 7 in each event in Division B. Trophies are given to the top 8 schools in Division C and top 6 schools in Division B. Each school’s team’s overall score will be the sum of all points of the top 20 events. 

Schools such as Half Hollow Hills, Ward Melville, and Syosset High School are among the competing teams Brentwood is pitted against. While BHS placed in the top back in 2014 (5th place), it has been a while since they obtained another successful placement for Regionals. Regardless, advisors are very supportive of their students. While they do push for the very best out of the young scholars, they walk out with district pride every tournament. 

Medals and Members

Angel Alvarado

Team Captain Angel Alvarado medaled in 2018 and then again in 2019 for Herpetology, Fossils, and Dynamic Planet. What made him medal over the others was his ability to work with his partners who were in different grades than him. They were able to do a lot  through “shared collaboration even when the workload became heavy.” Then again, these are 16-17 year olds with a full school schedule. This year for invitationals, Alvarado, mentioned “the stakes are much higher because there are many schools going and each one has their own teams.”  Therefore, Brentwood must be able to reach the same level and go above the standard at the expense of not having enough events filled with students. 

Through his leadership positions, Alvarado has improved his abilities to be a better leader, improve his evaluation and analysis skills, and sharpen his confrontational skills when forced to talk to students and make sure the teams run smoothly. When asked about an advantage he as a Brentwood student had, Alvarado replied, “camaraderie.” According to him and many other teammates, team work ethic and cooperation comes naturally as they all know each other, share the same learning environment, and have the same goals; to go over and beyond and reach state competition.

Alvarado states, “Certain events require extreme amounts of collaboration and we do really well when we use that to our advantage. In terms of weaknesses, it would be the lack of resources, we have so many things we could benefit from if we had them like a fossil collection by the district has been very unsupportive. Nonetheless we still try our hardest to make ends meet and raise money in order to buy even the minimal things that can let us succeed.”

Ashley Estrada

Ashley Estrada has medaled in creating towers and boomilevers. These events are a fusion of physics, mathematics, and engineering. Estrada, the only female student competing in the male-dominated building event, developed her interest after taking a woodshop/technology class in the 7th grade. She explained how her qualities as a “detail-oriented person and a perfectionist” were strengthened in SciOly. The idea of working with only males “doesn’t really cross [her] mind.” While  she definitely does not feel intimidated by them, she does however feel sad that there aren’t any new female builders who have joined in the 3 years she’s been a member. 

Joshua Perez

Former member Joshua Perez discovered SciOly through upperclassmen and found it to be a place where he could grow intellectually, experience new levels of competition, and above all, form friendships with his peers. In the two years he’s been in the club, Perezinfluenced by the build eventsdecided to add Principles of Engineering to his schedulehelping him in figuring out his future college major. His interests came about when facing the obstacle of creating a boomilever with limited and low-cost supplies.

Not knowing what to expect, Perez describes his first competition at Islip High School as “crazy.” While there was a lot of Brentwood pride within team members, there was also a feeling of genuine “self-accomplishment” since Perez felt that it had made him want to “delve into technology and now [he wants] to pursue a career in computer engineering.” He has realized, much like others in this particular field, that “science is not a set straight line; there’s a lot of creativity to it.”

This is the reason why students have become attracted to the challenge. However, Perez and Estrada found themselves to be “crushed” when they competed against “schools with grand funding and better opportunities.”

Solving For Solution

The Science Olympiad website acknowledges the competitions are open for students in  grades 6-12; yet, Brentwood delays the opportunity for students to officially join until they are enrolled in the 9th grade. Here, we see one of the main reasons hindering Brentwood’s long-term success in science competitions. While the coaches have tried to implement a Sci-Oly based after-school club in one of the four Brentwood district middle schools, there’s still a lot of work left to do. 

The reality of the matter is, like this district, there’s a lot of beauty underneath the surface. Estrada, along with the vast majority of the organization, believes joining SciOly late into high school poses a disadvantage.  At the same time, these students realize that what sets them back only pushes them to take home the State championship trophy. 

For now, SciOly remains as one of the longest-running science clubs in Brentwood. From helping students shape into better educated and interested young students to engaging new possible majors, this program with all its benefits deserves to be fueled with more resources to provide even better outcomes.

For more information on Science Olympiads, feel free to join the organizations Remind @scioly2021 and speak to tech captain and student, Amber M. Connell.