By Andrew Cluley
One day Grant Borgman could end up following in his father’s footsteps and work as an electrical engineer. If it happens, the Washtenaw Elementary Science Olympiad that took place at Pioneer High School Saturday could be one of the reasons why. Borgman was one of about 2,300 first through fifth graders, including students from all of Ann Arbor Public Schools elementary schools, that participated in what’s believed to be the largest Science Olympiad in the world.
Borgman’s only a fourth grader at Carpenter Elementary School but says he liked learning about building circuits, drawing them, and learning the symbols for circuits. ”It sounds cool to be an engineer and I really like building stuff and making things,” Borgman says.
His dad Aaron Borgman served as the coach for Carpenter’s Circuit Wizardry team. He says they learned a lot about circuits for fourth graders. “They have to understand the basics of electronics, voltage, current, resistance, and they also have to be able to take a description of a circuit and draw a schematic and build the circuit,” Aaron Borgman says.
Electronics was just one of the many areas students learned about in preparation for the Science Olympiad. Each grade had between 12 to 15 events. WESO Board President Susan Blackburn says a variety of events are chosen for each grade. “There’s something to appeal to everybody, to those that are very academic and test oriented, to those that like to build things and are more hands on, and some of our events have a little bit of both,” Blackburn says.
In addition to the events students practiced for ahead of the Science Olympiad, a variety of open events were available as well. Blackburn says this is another way the event exposes elementary students to the many different aspects of science. She says the goal of WESO is much larger than the one-day competition. “I think it’s more of a life-long process that they learn, hopefully we’ve instilled some love of science in them. That they’ve had a chance to discover different scientific principles and activities outside of what they’re taught in the classroom,” Blackburn says.
Developing this passion for science is one reason Juliet Berger continues to serve as the coach for the Feathered Friends event for students at Bach Elementary years after her daughter left the school. ”It’s a lifelong activity, you can bird when you’re 90 and we want to get kids interested in the environment and protecting our natural places,” Berger says.