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Flowery Branch students win medals at Science Olympiad
Third-grader Kelis Finley, back, and fourth-grader Celine Philanthrope prepare for the bridge-building competition at the Science Olympiad.

Cherie Hathcock watched her team of science-enthusiastic Flowery Branch Elementary School students carry their knowledge from the classroom and into competition.

The result was a second-place finish.

Eighteen Flowery Branch Elementary students took second place in the first Science Olympiad regional competition Saturday at Martin Technology Academy of Math and Science in Flowery Branch. They racked up 10 medals, including three first-place medals in the 18-event competition.

“The very first event, when they called out that our team had taken first place, we were like ‘What?’” said Hathcock, who teaches in the Seeking Excellence and Reaching Challenging Heights program for advanced students. “Then, when they were calling out the final team results and they called the third-place finisher, it made me think we got second or fourth.

“Then, when they called our name as the second-place finisher, the team ran up on stage and they were just so excited.”

The competition featured an estimated 200 students among 10 teams, including five from Hall County schools.

The events ranged from hands-on events such as bridge building, where the students used straws, a meter of masking tape and a two chairs to see who could build the sturdiest bridge. The bridges were tested by placing clay on top of them. Students also built towers, testing their durability. They dived into chemistry and rocketry, as well.

Hathcock said one student told her, “We may have not built the tallest tower, but we had the strongest.”

Bonus points were given for height and durability on the tower building.

Students also participated in chemistry and rocketry, as well, for the hands-on portion.

They tested their thinking, clue-finding and navigational skills with events such as crimebusters and map reading.

“I am very proud of our students for demonstrating their science knowledge and problem-solving ability,” said Flowery Branch Elementary Principal Susan Miller. “Their success illustrates two of our Flowery Branch Elementary learning tenets: That students enjoy learning when they are actively engaged and academically challenged.

“Their enthusiasm for science is contagious.”

The top three finishers advance to the State Science Olympiad on May 17 at Kennesaw State University.

“There’s going to be a lot of teams there,” Hathcock said. “I told the team we’re going in with the same mindset we had on Saturday, ‘No pressure. We’re going to have fun doing science.’

“I compared it to a sundae: The county having the competition and being able to compete was the ice cream. Winning individual medals was the topping. Getting second place was the whipped cream, and going to state is the cherry on top. This is our sundae, and it keeps us happy.”

Hathcock also called the Martin Technology Academy staff “awesome” and said it was a great host.

Coordinator Becky Vinson of Martin Technology Academy said the first time hosting a competition of this size was a “success.”

“We had all positive feedback,” she said. “The staff here at (Martin Technology Academy) helped make it a success. They put in a lot of volunteer hours.

“We had a few bumps in the road, but everything ran smoothly even with those.”

Vinson took a team to the state competition last year; however, that was before the regional round was installed. She said the new system brought more teams to compete.

“We did this competition for the kids. I think everyone had a great time. The kids were here at 7:30 on a Saturday morning, and they were just excited to be doing something they enjoyed, science.”

Regional events