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Mercer Students Catch the Olympic Spirit in the Name of Science


WEST WINDSOR – Even though the next Summer Olympic games in Brazil are more than a year away, a group of Mercer County Community College (MCCC) students recently found a way to capture the Olympic spirit – but it involved dropping eggs and building cars out of pasta.

During January and February, nine Mercer science students volunteered to serve as coaches at West Amwell School in Lambertville for the Mercer Science Olympiad, a competition for students age 9 through 12. The Science Olympiad united community college students with elementary school students, which serves as an interactive learning experience for both groups.

Science Olympiad Participants

Mercer County Community College science students participating in the 2015 Science Olympiad, kneeling, from left: Kiersten Hendrickson, Kausalya Mannuru, Jenna Garofalo. Standing, from left: Shaiful Ali, Biology Professor Laura Blinderman, Saman Khan, Chris Naro, Nicola Teves, Shie Chau, Jordan Gyurcsak

Mercer students coached teams from West Amwell in designing – and practicing – for competitive events in engineering and chemistry, including Pasta Mobile, Rubber Band Catapult, Identification of Unknown Powders, Polymer Science, Tin Can Race, Egg Drop, and Suspension Bridge. Mercer Biology Professor Laura Blinderman, who developed the project with regional Science Olympiad Director Martha Kubik, said it was an incredible learning experience for Mercer and West Amwell students alike.

“It was great for the Mercer students to develop relationships with kids, and to exchange a mutual enthusiasm for science,” Blinderman said. “By bringing their expertise and love of science into the community, Mercer students help to promote science literacy and serve as role models to which kids can aspire.”

By brainstorming to use everyday objects in the creation of functional tools, kids discover the challenge and satisfaction in the application of science to real world problems, Blinderman said. In the Pasta Mobile event, for example, teams of students build a 12-inch car out of pasta and glue, working on the engineering, construction, and practice runs. At the Olympiad, the car is released from a four-foot high ramp and the distance traveled is measured.

The statewide event was held on February 26 and included teams from 12 elementary schools, with about 200 elementary students participating. Mercer students ran the events, served as judges, and participated in the awards ceremonies. Kubik commended Mercer students for their professionalism, confidence, and enthusiasm, and said she looks forward to their participation next year.

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