University preparing to host 2016 national Science Olympiad

By University Communications
June 15, 2015
Sarah Vind, left, and Faustina Zertler of Menomonie High School compete in protein modeling at the 2015 state Science Olympiad at UW-Milwaukee.

Photo: Sarah Vind, left, and Faustina Zertler at the 2015 Science Olympiad

The countdown is on for the national Science Olympiad tournament to be held May 18-21, 2016, at University of Wisconsin-Stout.

More than 7,000 people from 50 states will travel to Menomonie for one of the premier science competitions in the U.S.

The event features middle and high school students competing in science and engineering events related to STEM careers.

"This competition will reinforce the growing reputation that UW-Stout has in the science, technology, engineering and mathematics fields," said Chancellor Bob Meyer. "Landing this event is a testament to the quality of our faculty and staff who work in those fields."

UW-Stout, Wisconsin's Polytechnic University, landed the event more than a year ago and became the official next host when the 2015 event ended in mid-May at the University of Nebraska in Lincoln, Neb.

The director of the UW-Stout event, Forrest Schultz, a chemistry professor, was in Nebraska for the national event, which concluded with a ceremony that passed the responsibility for the 2016 tournament to UW-Stout.

"It is an incredible honor to host this prestigious tournament at UW-Stout. It is a perfect match with our mission to prepare students for a STEM-intensive global marketplace. We are looking forward to working with our industry partners, students and a broad array of academic programs across campus to make this event a showcase of Wisconsin and UW-Stout," Schultz said.

In landing the 2016 event, UW-Stout competed against many other universities, including Princeton, Caltech and major Midwestern schools from the Big Ten Conference.

Officials were impressed with UW-Stout's science facilities and, more importantly, how they're used. "There's an applied nature to the Science Olympiad events, and that's what the national tournament officials want to experience at UW-Stout," Schultz said.

UW-Stout stresses hands-on learning and career preparation. The main science complex, Jarvis Hall, reopened in 2010 after a $43 million renovation.

UW-Stout also will host the Science Olympiad state tournament April 1-2, 2016, about six weeks before the national event. The event will attract close to 2,000 middle school and high school students.

The state tournament has been held at UW-Stout about a half-dozen times since 2001, including in 2014. Schultz is the state tournament director and president of Wisconsin Science Olympiad.

Campus, regional impact

UW-Stout officials are working with Menomonie and Dunn County officials to prepare for the national event and influx of people in 2016. The approximately 2,400 student competitors on 120 teams will stay in residence halls.

"We have a tremendous host team assembled from UW-Stout and community members who already have been working for more than a year on tournament logistics and event planning," Schultz said.

The competitors will be accompanied by several thousand educators, parents and family members, who are expected to fill hotels in Menomonie and beyond.

The 2015 high school national champion is Troy High School from Fullerton, Calif. The middle school champion is Solon Middle School from Solon, Ohio.

National event sponsors

Along with UW-Stout and Stout University Foundation, the major event sponsors to date are Xcel Energy and 3M. UW-Stout is working with Xcel Energy to develop plans to highlight Xcel's commitment to renewable energy, in particular wind energy through its Windsource program.

3M has provided early sponsorship that will be directed toward expanding the participation of high-need math and science schools in northwest Wisconsin.

More sponsorship opportunities are available. For more information, go to the event website. Information on Science Olympiad can be obtained here>>.