At the 2018 Virginia Tech-hosted Science Olympiad, dozens of high school students visited campus to participate in STEM events.

This weekend, more than 200 high school students will be on campus for the 2019 Virginia Tech Science Olympiad Regional Tournament, hosted by Virginia Tech students.

The Science Olympiad Tournament, to be held Feb. 2, is a regional tournament taking place at McBryde Hall, Torgersen Hall, Hahn Hall South, and War Memorial Hall, with an awards ceremony and student organization fair taking place in Squires Student Center.

The event is part of the national Science Olympiad, a series of science competitions held in all 50 states designed to help youth improve their understanding in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) and to work together in teams to learn new skills. The Blacksburg event is part of Virginia Science Olympiad, a commonwealth-wide nonprofit organization, with sister events at Charlottesville, Fairfax, and Woodson High School.

At Virginia Tech, participants will compete in engineering and science events, such as testing pre-built boomilevers to see how much sand they can hold before breaking, or forming teams to compete in astronomy quizzes, plus a variety of experiments. Attending will be high school students from across Virginia, in addition to a high school from northern Pennsylvania. (Registration is closed.)

“I want schools in our area of Southwest Virginia to know that our tournament exists, and I want to help them start teams and compete at our tournament,” said Trisha Deshmukh, president of Science Olympiad at Virginia Tech and a junior from Fairfax, Virginia, majoring in biological sciences in the Virginia Tech College of Science. “Science Olympiad is primarily well known in Northern Virginia, with almost every school having a team. There are not as many teams from other parts of Virginia, and I would love to help change that.”

Deshmukh’s own interest in science began from participating in clubs and competitions such as Science Olympiad. “I had the opportunity to compete in events in subject areas such as engineering, geology, biology, and physics,” she said. “The Science Olympiad events Disease Detectives and Microbe Mission fascinated me with the study of infectious diseases and inspired me to pursue an undergraduate degree in biology.”

Deshmukh’s high school team traveled to Cornell University in New York and MIT in Massachusetts. “Traveling to and competing in these out-of-state invitational tournaments was my favorite part of my Science Olympiad experience,” Deshmukh added. “We got to stay in hotels, stay up all night with our teammates, and compete against some of the top Science Olympiad teams in the country. … I knew that at whichever university I planned to attend, I wanted to help them host a Science Olympiad tournament.”

The event is being sponsored by the Virginia Tech College of Science, the Center for Enhancement of Engineering Diversity (CEED), and the Curie and Da Vinci Living and Learning Communities. This is the second year that Virginia Tech is hosting a Science Olympiad tournament. On the organizing team are 15 students from across the College of Science and the College of Engineering.

“Trisha and her team have done an impressive amount of work to make this event happen,” said Lori Blanc, an assistant professor of practice in the Department of Biological Sciences and director of the Da Vinci Living Learning Community, who is serving as faculty advisor over the event.

“As faculty advisor, I provide background support and connected Trisha’s team with people and resources as needed, but the students did all of the important work. I’m happy that the Curie & Da Vinci Science Living Learning Communities are able to sponsor this event by providing a large team of student volunteers. Having our undergraduate students interact with high school youth who may be considering majoring in STEM fields at Virginia Tech is a wonderful opportunity for everyone involved.”