Graduate Students Coach Local High School Students for Regional Science Olympiad

The 2015 Inland Empire Science Olympiad takes place March 7 in Riverside

UC Riverside graduate students Clint Collins (center) and Mingna Zhuang (to Clint’s left) are seen here assisting Riverside STEM Academy students prepare for the regional Science Olympiad. Photo credit: Michele Hampton, Riverside STEM Academy.

RIVERSIDE, Calif. – The Science Olympiad is a national organization dedicated to improving the quality of K-12 science education.  Its tournaments bring science to life for thousands of students by emphasizing problem solving and the understanding of science concepts.  These rigorous academic interscholastic competitions, which cover biology, Earth sciences, chemistry, physics and technology, consist of a series of team events for which students prepare many months in advance.

One team of such students preparing for the 2015 Inland Empire Science Olympiad, scheduled for Saturday, March 7, is at the Riverside STEM Academy (RSA), a relatively new school (currently, Grades 5-10) located not far from the University of California, Riverside.  The participating students, who are in Grades 9 and 10, are being coached every week by 23 UC Riverside graduate student volunteers from the College of Natural and Agricultural Sciences to prepare for the upcoming regional Science Olympiad.

Entomology graduate student Amelia Lindsey (left) watches the reaction of two students at the Riverside STEM Academy. Entomology is one of 23 events at the 2015 Inland Empire Science Olympiad for which the students are preparing. Photo credit: Michele Hampton, Riverside STEM Academy.

Entomology graduate student Amelia Lindsey (left) watches the reaction of two students at the Riverside STEM Academy. Entomology is one of 23 events at the 2015 Inland Empire Science Olympiad for which the students are preparing. Photo credit: Michele Hampton, Riverside STEM Academy.

“Now more than ever, we need to train our scientists to be able to communicate to the public,” said Mary Droser, a professor of geology in the UC Riverside Department of Earth Sciences, who played a key role in bringing RSA and UCR together for the Science Olympiad preparation.  “Coaching Science Olympiad goes a long way towards taking complicated topics and breaking them down for the kids.   I imagine that some of these students will choose to go into one of the sciences as a major, and want to come to UCR.”

The 30 participating RSA students are grouped into teams for the coaching sessions.  Each team has approximately four students, and one or two UCR graduate students are assigned to each team.

“We have been coaching the students every Tuesday since November 2014,” said Scott Evans, a graduate student who works with Droser and is volunteering his time at RSA.  “Each grad student has been volunteering his or her time every other Tuesday in coaching.”

He explained that each coaching session is 45 minutes long and focuses on one subject.

“I might pick a topic like map reading,” said Evans, who will receive his master’s degree this spring.  “The goal would be to teach the students in that session everything they need to know about map reading.”

James Ricci (second from the left) and Amelia Linsey (to his left) are UC Riverside graduate students coaching Riverside STEM Academy students for the 2015 Inland Empire Science Olympiad, which takes place March 7.Photo credit: Michele Hampton, Riverside STEM Academy.

James Ricci (second from the left) and Amelia Linsey (to his left) are UC Riverside graduate students coaching Riverside STEM Academy students for the 2015 Inland Empire Science Olympiad, which takes place March 7.Photo credit: Michele Hampton, Riverside STEM Academy.

What motivates Evans and the other UCR graduate students to continue coaching the RSA students is the latter’s enthusiasm for the material being taught.

“I am always surprised by how much they know and remember,” Evans said. “They keep asking questions, and we keep working to answer them as best we can!”

Participant Sophia Bautista, a Grade 10 student at RSA, feels that Evans and the other UCR graduate students have gone “above and beyond” for her, and claims she has never had coaches like them before.

“They give so much of their time and energy,” she said.  “Two out of three of my events are coached by them, and I feel very confident with the material in those events. The UCR grad students come with sample tests, power points, and in some cases, actual fossils for the event, ‘Fossils.’ Other students on my team and I have also gone to UCR for extra practice with the grad students. This allowed me to focus and understand the content better. Without the grad students, I do not think I would be as prepared as I am now.”

Participant Ian Hughes, who is in Grade 9 at RSA, is working with two UCR graduate students on two different events.

UC Riverside's Mark Raymundo is seen here coaching students at the Riverside STEM Academy (RSA).  In total, 23 UCR graduate students have been coaching the RSA students every Tuesday since November 2014.Photo credit: Michele Hampton, Riverside STEM Academy.

UC Riverside’s Mark Raymundo is seen here coaching students at the Riverside STEM Academy (RSA). In total, 23 UCR graduate students have been coaching the RSA students every Tuesday since November 2014.Photo credit: Michele Hampton, Riverside STEM Academy.

“It is great because both are teaching assistants for college classes in their respective events,” Hughes said.   “It makes it all so much more fun that they are experts on these topics and that they are pretty close in age to us.  I feel like we are really learning the science and not just memorizing facts.   It makes me want to be a scientist.”

The 2015 Inland Empire Science Olympiad will take place from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. in Ramona High School, 7675 Magnolia Ave., Riverside, Calif.  Each participating team will compete in 23 events such as anatomy & physiology, fossils, air trajectory, bridge building and experimental design.  Currently, there are three divisions: Division A (Grades K-6); Division B (Grades 6-9); and Division C (Grades 9-12).  Twenty-nine teams from 15 high schools will compete in Division C.  Including Divisions A and B, 51 teams from 35 schools will participate in the regional Science Olympiad.

Winning teams will qualify to participate in the Southern California State Science Olympiad at Canyon High School in Anaheim on April 4.

“The first year I advised a Science Olympiad team I had just one parent helping me coach,” said Michele Hampton, a teacher in the Science Department at RSA and the coordinator at the school for the Science Olympiad.  “This year we have 30 coaches, 23 of whom are UCR graduate students.  All 23 of the events our students need to prepare for are covered.  The UCR students have been prompt and have come to practice organized with curriculum and a plan.  These mentorships have been not only paramount to our success as a team but spending time with these college students has been inspirational to our high school students as well.  I truly appreciate this opportunity to collaborate with UCR.”

Media Contact


Tel: (951) 827-6050
E-mail: iqbal@ucr.edu
Twitter: UCR_Sciencenews

Additional Contacts

Mary Droser
Tel: (951) 827-3797
E-mail: mary.droser@ucr.edu

Scott Evans
E-mail: sevan004@ucr.edu

Michele Hampton, Riverside STEM Academy
E-mail: mhampton@rusd.k12.ca.us

Archived under: Inside UCR, , , , , , ,

Top of Page