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More than 400 elementary students skipped the snooze button and crawled out of their cozy warm beds Saturday morning. It was showdown time inside and outside Northside High School — students, kindergarten through fifth grade, were given a chance to demonstrate their depth of knowledge in STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) related subjects.

The teams and their captains dedicate numerous hours preparing for this event. Even the team captains and cadre of volunteer staff walked through each event to understand the concepts and the guidelines. During the tournament, 19 events ran in three different time periods. Teams of up to 18 students can compete. Any given team may have only one entry per event. Teams may compete in as many or as few events as they wish.

In spite of the frigid temperature and winds, teams lined up to launch their plastic soda bottle rockets. Prior to the tournament teams constructed two rockets designed to stay aloft for the greatest amount of time. Two-by-two they were led outside as their parents and those in wait watched through the windows.

Several teams participated in the Marshmallow Catapult challenge. Teams built a device out of specified materials to launch a marshmallow at a target placed on the floor, with a goal to land as close to the center of the target as possible.

Trajeggtory teams created a system, within material guidelines, that enabled them to toss a raw egg over field-goal-type-bar and land it on the floor without the shell breaking.

In "Describe it, Build it," one team member looks at a model and composes directions to build it, then the team members follows their directions to build it without being able to see the finished product.

Always popular is the Bridge-a-Roni competition. Teams build bridges with different kinds of pasta and glue and the goal is to build the lightest bridge that holds the most weight.

Not all who participated in Onslow County Schools Elementary Science Olympiad will seek careers in engineering or become a rocket scientist, mathematician, or physicist, but the experience is designed as a means to peek students’ interest in STEM. At the same time, students learn how to work as a team and build their social skills because the spotlight is on the entire team as opposed to just one or two students. Competitions are hands-on and are balanced between the various disciplines of biology, earth science, environmental science, chemistry, physics, engineering, and technology. “The purpose of this event is giving kids a chance to realize that science takes all forms and that every kid can find some type of science they’re interested in and have a chance to have fun with it. We all use science in some way every day,” said Michael Elder, the director of Innovation and Gifted Services.

And you just never know who will be inspired enough to dream to become a Nobel Prize winner or a mad scientist!

More than a hundred awards were handed out to students at the end of the competition, but there was no doubt about it the day was more about camaraderie and having fun while being challenged.

The top six schools in the varsity category overall were as follows:

1.       Queens Creek Elementary

2.      Dixon Elementary

3.      Jacksonville Elementary

4.      Swansboro Elementary

5.      Northwoods Elementary

6.      Southwest Elementary

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