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Science Olympiad allows students to build their academic and learning skills in science-based competition.

Two Dunn County high school teams put those skills to the test last weekend.

Menomonie and Boyceville each finished in the top five at the season’s first tournament on Saturday in Belleville. Colfax and Elk Mound also have Science Olympiad teams, but they didn’t attend the invitational.

“It’s kind of basically a STEM type program that really gives student an opportunity to compete and hone their skills in a competitive matter,” Menomonie coach Harold Vlcek said of the Science Olympiad program.

Student compete in 28 events in five categories — life sciences, earth and space sciences, inquiry, technology and engineering and chemistry and physics.

“It’s an opportunity for kids to explore all the fields of science, whether it’d be biology, earth space science, physics, chemistry, technology, writing lab, they pretty much get an opportunity to do all of those things,” Vlcek said.

Menomonie’s top team came in second overall with a score of 74. Boyceville’s top team won the Division 2 title at the event, while finishing fourth overall with a score of 114. Marquette University High School won the event with a score of 57.

Menomonie also had teams place ninth and 12th. Boyceville had additional teams take 11th and 40th, while the middle school team topped the Division 2 leaderboard.

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Menomonie won seven gold medals, getting victories in chemistry lab, code busters, dynamic planet, experimental design, mystery design, write it do it, and gravity vehicle. It was a good first tournament of the year, Vlcek said. The students have had a couple of months knowing the guidelines and rules for events, but finally seeing competition will provide some insight into what needs to be improved.

“Some of the events where they maybe haven’t quite prepared as well as they need to, it gives them a good feel of what they need to be working on and what they need to do to improve, and the students will continue to do that,” Vlcek said.

Boyceville received 11 gold medals on the day, winning astronomy, circuit lab, disease detective, forensics, geologic mapping, protein modeling, water quality, boomilever, gravity vehicle, ping pong parachute and Wright stuff.

“It is very challenging getting ready for a tournament this early in the season, but our students did outstanding,” said Boyceville coach Andy Hamm said. “The foundation that the team has placed by preparing for and doing well at such an early tournament will provide more opportunities for success down the road this season, and we are all really excited to see where our teams can stack up in the state this year.”

It was a good start for a Boyceville team looking to continue its streak of top-four finishes at the state tournament. Boyceville has finished in the top four of the standings in 11 straight seasons. On Dec. 7 the team will be hosting its 13th annual invitational tournament at the high school and Tiffany Creek Elementary. While test taking type events are off limits to the public, spectators are able to watch building events. Menomonie, Elk Mound and Colfax are each scheduled to compete at the Boyceville tournament.

“Some people that are interested they could can come in and watch the gravity vehicles, the airplanes and the towers being tested,” Vlcek said.

Menomonie’s team has grown from 12 student when Vlcek started as the coach in 1995 and has now grown to 77 individuals. What makes Science Olympiad enjoyable for Vlcek is the excitement students have — Vlcek said he’s had bus drivers say the Science Olympiad team has as much or more enthusiasm for competition than some sports teams — and it’s a competition for everyone.

“The kids that aren’t maybe as good at taking a paper and pencil type of test, as in like an anatomy event, there’s probably usually seven to eight build events that students can do as well,” Vlcek said.

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