Submitted by Mentors for the Gibbons School Science Olympiad team
Westborough – While most of Westborough was still sound asleep at 5 a.m. Feb. 10, a group of middle school students was already gathered outside of the Sara W. Gibbons Middle School in the frigid darkness. Although yawns and slight grumbles at the early wake up time drifted among the group, the prevailing mood was that of anticipation and excitement for their firstever Science Olympiad Invitational at Harvard University.
Science Olympiad is composed of various events based on STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) fields. Longtime veterans often fondly explain it as “track and field, except for science” — with 400m hurdles, 4×4 relay, and onemile get replaced by Forensics, Mystery Architecture, Meteorology, and more.
Students work with partners to complete written exams and design objects, teaching them valuable teamwork and critical thinking skills.
Although Westborough High School has had a Science Olympiad team for five years now, this was the first year for one at Gibbons. The team was led by coach Lynn Sullivan, an eighthh grade math teacher at Gibbons, and high school mentors Arina Khotimsky, Meenu Mahagaokar, Declan Mazur, and Chloe Zhao, all Science Olympiad competitors themselves.
The process for creating the team actually began in the previous school year, when the four high school mentors, along with WHS graduates Shreya and Vanshika Chowdhury began emailing teachers at Gibbons to find a supervisor. Luckily, Mrs. Sullivan agreed to act as supervisor and coach; in the words of high school mentor Khotimsky, “Her guidance and input as an educator was so valuable to our firstyear team.”
Twenty seven students joined, a number that “we were more than excited to have,” said Zhao. “So many students joined that we were even able to compete as two teams at competitions, with roughly 15 students per team.”
Following the fall sports season at Gibbons, the team began meeting once a week to study for their events and build projects that they would go on to test at competitions. The first opportunity to do so proved to be the Middle School (Division B) Science Olympiad at Harvard University in February. Competing against public and private schools from as far as Georgia, the team more than held their own, with six students placing topten in their respective events, and Connor Cashman and Alex Chan even taking home fifthplace ribbons in Mystery Architecture.
At the State Science Olympiad held on March 23 at Assumption College in Worcester, Westborough fared even better: on the first team, Om Patel placed fourth in Boomilever and
Anshika Shekhar placed second in Thermodynamics. On the alternate team, Virendra
Bhawsar came in third in Density Lab; Andrew Izvolsky and Kevin Shi placed fifth in Game On; Julie Wakeem placed fourth in Heredity; Andrew Li and Virendra Bhawsar placed third in
Herpetology; Julie Wakeem and Andrew Li placed third in Mystery Architecture; Aagam Prakash placed second in Thermodynamics; and Aagam Prakash and Nikhil Bezawada placed first in Solar System. Overall the first team placed 14th, while among the alternate teams Gibbons placed eighth.
The high school mentors credit all of this success to the students and their parents. As a
firstyear club, the team did not have funding or rides to competitions, so parents provided the
backbone of transportation for the students and financial support of the team.
As for the students themselves, “It was an incredible opportunity for the kids to explore
different fields of STEM in a fun way,” said Mahagaokar. “Throughout the entire season, we were so impressed by their dedication and enthusiasm.”
For Khotimsky, a particular memory that stands out is escorting students back from their events on the Harvard campus.
“We were chatting about what had been on the exam for their event, which was Thermodynamics. We ended up having a great discussion about bomb calorimeters — a topic
that I had only learned two weeks ago myself in AP Chemistry!” she said.
For a first year team, this representation of Westborough at the state level is a strong showing of the academic strength of our town.