AAPS: Pioneer Science Olympiad impresses at nationals with fifth-place finish


The Pioneer High School Science Olympiad team celebrated a historic day competing at the 35th Annual National Science Olympiad Tournament at Cornell University in New York on June 1.

They were one of 60 teams representing all 50 states in the High School Division C qualifying to compete at nationals out of nearly 8,000 teams in the U.S. who participate in Science Olympiad.

When this year’s Pioneer seniors began high school, the student-led Science Olympiad team was not even qualifying for the state tournament. With many of this crop of olympians having competed in Science Olympiad since second grade, they became determined to work harder. As a result, momentum has been building the last two years with Pioneer earning regional victories and fifth and fourth place finishes at states respectively. Finally, this year the highly motivated team was able to place second in Michigan’s strong field to qualify for the national tournament.

The 2019 Science Olympiad Forensics National Champions EmJ Rennich and Anna Klinger were awarded a voucher for a $1000 Texas Instruments Data Collection Prize Package. (Photo by Marc Klinger)

This was only the second time in the school’s history that the Pioneer team advanced to the national level. The other occasion was back in 1994 when the team finished in sixth place.

Pioneer’s top team of 15 students went on to shock the Division C national field, placing fifth overall, beating some of the top teams in the country including Michigan State Champion Northville, who finished the day in tenth place. There was just a 23 point spread between fifth and tenth place so excellence and perseverance by every team member was paramount to achieving the team result.

Pioneer medaled in 9 of the 23 scoring events. The event placements were:

First Place: Forensics (EmJ Rennich, Anna Klinger); Second Place: Fossils (Sriram Garapati, Siri Vangavolu); Third Place: Boomilever (Jack Bajcz, Klinger), Write It Do It (Aditi Ganesan, Linda Yang), Disease Detectives (Polina Chuikov, Garapati); Fourth Place: Herpetology (Haesue Baik, Klinger); Fifth Place: Circuit Lab (Arnav Brahmasandra, Owen Rennich); Sixth Place: Codebusters (Abby Ng, E. Rennich, Chuikov), Wright Stuff (O. Rennich, Bajcz); 12th Place: Anatomy & Physiology (Garapati, Yang); 13th Place: Mousetrap Vehicle (Bajcz, E. Rennich); 14th Place: Geologic Mapping (Chuikov, Vangavolu); 15th Place: Protein Modeling (Ami Suresh, Manish Venumuddula, Yang); 16th Place: Mission Possible (E. Rennich, O. Rennich), Sounds of Music (Klinger, Yang), Thermodynamics (Brahmasandra, Venumuddula); 20th Place: Dynamic Planet (Vangavolu, Venumuddula); 22nd Place: Chemistry Lab (Ariel Mobius, Venumuddula), Designer Genes (Garapati, Suresh), Experimental Design (Ganesan, Ng, Suresh); 25th Place: Astronomy (Mobius, Vangavolu); 29th Place: Fermi Questions (Baik, Mobius); and 34th Place: Water Quality (Chuikov, Ganesan).

Pioneer seniors Polina Chuikov, EmJ Rennich, Sampoorna Ravikanth, Ami Suresh, and Abby Ng at the 2019 National Science Olympiad Opening Ceremony. (Photo by Pat Schuch)

The 2019 team was led by co-captains EmJ Rennich and Sampoorna Ravikanth and received critical support from staff advisor Jenni Wilkening and University of Michigan grad student Yifan Li in addition to PSO families, Pioneer Principal Tracy Lowder, AAPS, and many local donors.

More information about the tournament including the final results spreadsheets and the press releases can be found at the national Science Olympiad website here: https://www.soinc.org/2019-national-tournament.

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