By ASHLEIGH LIVINGSTON
---- — PLATTSBURGH — For the fifth consecutive year, Plattsburgh High School students placed first at the regional Science Olympiad and are headed to state competition.
"This year, we've got an incredibly strong team," said PHS physics teacher and Science Olympiad coach Corey Mousseau. "I really do believe that we’re looking at top-10 placing at states.”
The New York State Science Olympiad will take place March 8 and 9 in Central Valley, where 15 of PHS's 20 team members will compete against nearly 50 of the best teams in the state in 25 science-based events.
"They all come together in one single division at the state level," Mousseau said. "It’s not like the athletic programs, where we have Class A, Class B, Class C, Class D and we have an individual state champion for each of those.”
Also taking part at the State Olympiad will be Lake Placid High School, which placed third in its first-time participation, at the regional tournament at Clarkson University in Potsdam on Feb. 2.
Northeastern Clinton High School took part for the first time this year as well, coming in eighth, while Chateaguay Central School placed seventh.
For the last two years, the Plattsburgh High School team has placed among the top 20 at the State Olympiad, and since August, has spent countless hours preparing for this year's tournament.
Both the regional and state competitions comprise events pertaining to subjects such as biology, Earth science, chemistry, physics, technology and engineering.
In order to do well in an event, students must posses college-level knowledge of the subject area.
"One of the coolest things I like about Science Olympiad is that you get to explore what you really want to do,” said PHS senior Hamzah Qudsi, who has been on the team for two years now.
Qudsi will compete in "Disease Detectives," which focuses on the effects of disease on populations, as well as "Anatomy and Physiology," a test-based event on the nervous, urinary and digestive systems.
“It allows me to actually learn about the human body, which I just find really fascinating," he said.
Qudsi noted that though Science Olympiad is academically oriented, it is highly competitive, much like interscholastic athletics.
"There’s actually a lot of excitement, and when you actually do score high, you really do have the same sort of adrenaline rush that you get from a sports event," he said.
The PHS club, which gives members high-school credit, meets once a week after school with Mousseau and assistant coaches Sonal Patel-Dame, who teaches chemistry and biology at PHS; Wendy DeMane, a technology teacher at the school; PHS chemistry teacher Steve Tice; and Justin Collins, a former team president who is now in college.
Much of the preparation for the events, however, is done by students on their own time.
“Coaches help you along the way, but most of the studying is done by yourself,” said PHS sophomore Leo Lee, who, among other events, participates in "Triple E," which requires recognition of a plethora of exotic, endangered and extinct organisms.
Leo and fellow PHS sophomore Risha Sheni will also take part in the State Olympiad's "Water Quality" event, for which they will look to organisms present in water to help them determine its quality.
But while some students participate in test- and lab-based events, others, like PHS juniors Walker Gosrich and Jake Messner, are drawn to events based in technology and engineering.
"I love the science, and I love the engineering and the practical experience that I’m getting," said Gosrich, who, with Messner, began building a robotic arm last August for the competition.
Their homemade limb must be able to accomplish certain tasks, such as picking up objects and dropping them into boxes, in a set amount of time.
“This is definitely our most time-consuming thing in high school," Messner said, "but it’s what we love doing.
“And it’s a great experience in having a goal and working an enormous number of hours and late nights and stuff to achieve that."
Sheni, who also competed in the State Olympiad last year, added that she is determined to do all she can to prepare for the upcoming tournament and ensure she leaves Central Valley with no regrets.
“I learned from last year that, like, you don’t want to go there and then come back and realize that you could have done more,” she said.
Email Ashleigh Livingston: alivingston@pressrepublican
PHS OLYMPIAD TEAM
Team members competing in the New York State Science Olympiad are: Lucas Barton, Cayley Boire, Kelly Cantwell, Eunice Choe, Jeremy Davies, Amy DeMane, Walker Gosrich, Keenan Hunt-Stone, Leo Lee, Jake Messner, Risha Sheni, Haani Qudsi, Hamzah Qudsi, Josh LaBounty and Javier Yu. Team Alternates are: Nasser Issou, Connor McSweeney, Caleb Barton, Catherine Wagner and Natalie Casey-Sanger.