Editor’s note: STEM News is new feature on Local Tech Wire through a collaborative effort with the NC STEM Community Collaborative, MCNC, and the North Carolina Science, Mathematics, and Technology Center (SMT Center). To submit story ideas, please email LTW Editor Rick Smith rsmith@wral.com or Noah Garrett noah@thinkngc.com.By Russ Campbell and Tom Williams, SMT Center

RALEIGH, N.C. – More than 100 of the nation’s most competitive Science Olympians competed in 46 events spanning the sciences – from chemistry, biology and physics, to engineering, computers and astronomy – at the 2010 National Science Olympiad hosted at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign on May 20-22.

For the past 26 years, has led a revolution in science education. What began as a grassroots assembly of science teachers is now one of the premiere science competitions in the nation, providing rigorous, standards-based challenges to nearly

But, before reaching the national competition, students had to first compete in state/regional events.

The drama in the Egg-O-Naut competition at (NCSO) on April 24 is comparable to that of a rocket’s flight. In the instance where the rocket suspends 25 feet in the air before giving way to the law of gravity, there’s one question: will the egg free itself of its vessel and descend safely to the ground?

“We were surprised the parachute opened,” said Noah Brown, a senior from Ardrey Kell High School in Charlotte. “We had some significant struggles. It didn’t open at regionals, and it hasn’t opened in test flights; so just the fact that it opened was awesome.”

The Egg-O-Naut is just one of several events included in the NCSO state tournament.

Celebrating its 35th anniversary this year, the two-day state competition at N.C. State University is the culmination of a year’s worth of tournaments in university, community college, and public school facilities spanning North Carolina.

This year, 407 middle and high schools and more than 8,500 students competed at the NCSO regional sites for the right to earn a spot in the state finals. Four North Carolina schools advanced this year from the state finals to compete in the national competition in Illinois.

Raleigh Charter High School and North Carolina School of Science and Mathematics (NCSSM) represented the state in the high-school division at the national competition. Raleigh finished in 15th place with NCSSM finishing 19th.

Arendell Parrott Academy and Jay M. Robinson Middle School competed in the middle-school division. Arendell finished 17th with Jay M. Robinson coming in 29th place.

“We are extremely proud of our students across the state who dedicated their time and energy in pursuit of gaining new knowledge and skills in the areas of science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) that will help them in pursuing their higher education and career pathways,” said Jason Painter, executive director of the NCSO.

The NCSO, which is sponsored by (N.C. State’s acclaimed K-12 outreach program), is a nonprofit organization that aims to attract and retain the pool of K-12 students entering STEM degrees and careers in North Carolina. The challenging events of the NCSO align with the North Carolina Standard Course of Study as well as the National Science Education Standards.

The NCSO was created as a one day event on Nov. 23, 1974 at St. Andrews Presbyterian College in Laurinburg. The idea soon spread to Delaware and then to Michigan.

In 1984, the idea of a national Science Olympiad was presented at the National Science Teachers Association conference. Recognizing the need for a technology-literate workforce, the first Science Olympiad competition was sponsored by the United States Army in May 1985.

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