BURBANK—The Armenian Engineers Scientists of America held its 11th Science Olympiad on March 18, for the first time at Woodbury University’s beautiful main campus nestled against the Verdugo Foothills in Burbank, California.
Thanks to this year’s nine participating schools—AGBU Manoogian-Demirdjian, Charlotte and Elise Merdinian Armenian Evangelical, Holy Martyrs Ferrahian, Ribet Academy, Rose and Alex Pilibos School, Sahag Mesrop Armenian School, St. Gregory Alfred and Marguerite Hovsepian, TCA, Arshag Dikranian Armenian School and Vahan Anoush Chamlian School—98 students of Armenian descent from 6th through 12th grades with 72 projects participated in the 11th AESA SO.
Around 10 a.m. students began arriving at “The New Woodys” for their check-in and one by one took their places facing their prepared science projects which were waiting for them on tables organized into four categories: junior life science, junior physical science, senior life science and senior physical science. At the same time a number of volunteer scientists and engineers with many years of experience in judging science fairs were picking up their booklets and heading to locate the projects assigned for them to judge based on creativity, scientific thought and data analysis, thoroughness, presentation, as well as clarity.
With the judging process underway students began explaining their projects, the tests they had performed and the work they had done to prove their hypotheses and addressed any questions raised by the judges.
As the judges left to start their deliberations, the participating students were served lunch and took the opportunity to rest and mingle with their peers from the other schools. Afterwards, students gathered enthusiastically in the auditorium to participate in the games. Two games were planned for the afternoon. At the first game, students were challenged to find a secret code number by solving a set of puzzles and pattern recognition trivia’s. The team of five students who found the right code combination in less than 15 minutes was awarded gift certificates. At the second game, students were divided in five teams and they competed in the Science Knowledge Quiz”. Although there was an intense rivalry among competitors, one could feel the positive energy and the affable atmosphere, everyone including the audience was having fun while learning new concepts in science. The objective of the quiz was to motivate students in learning science more profoundly and experience new ways of thinking about science outside of the confines of the classroom. A team of five bright students achieved the highest score in the competition and were awarded with gift certificates.
This year AESA SOC was fortunate to have an accomplished microbiologist from NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory as a speaker. Anahid Kazarians has published over 20 papers and presented in over 10 conferences. She presented her experiences during the implementation of Planetary Protection Microbial Bioburden Requirements on the Mars Science Laboratory (MSL) Spacecraft, and also demonstrated that these requirements were maintained and met as the spacecraft was assembled. This was accomplished using microbial plating methods for the detection of spores and molecular methods for Adenosine Triphosphate (ATP) detection using bioluminescence. MSL, carrying 11 very sophisticated scientific instruments, was launched on November 26, 2011, carrying Anahid’s signature. It will be landing on Mars on August 6, exploring biosignatures on Mars. She also talked about what motivated her to enter the space field and why she believes science is fun and rewarding. The audience was very much interested with the topic and asked many questions and awarded Anahid Kazarians with a round of well deserved applause at the end.
Dr. Marina Guevrekian, the AESA SO Committee Chairwoman after thanking all the participating schools, principals, vice principals, teachers and parents who had been instrumental in students taking part in the AESA SO began announcing the much anticipated awards. The first announcement award was the teacher appreciation award which was bestowed on Lida Gevorkian from Vahan Anoush Chamlian School, for her outstanding contributions in mentoring and inspiring students in science and engineering throughout the year as well as her efforts in encouraging more participants and award winners in this year’s AESA Science Olympiad. Mrs. Lida Gevorkian will receive a check for $300 which was added this year in addition to the $300 which will be given for the purchase of a scientific instrument for her school’s science laboratory. Also as of this year the school with the winner teacher will be receiving a trophy. Mr. Vazken Madenlian, Principal of Vahan Anoush Chamlian School came up to the stage and accepted the trophy.
After a brief congratulatory speech directed to the participating students by Armen Hovannesian, AESA President, Dr. Marina Guevrekian began announcing the winners’ names and their schools which each time was followed by thunderous applause from the audience. Dr. Marina Guevrekian ended the event by saying what an immense satisfaction was for her to head the SOC since its inception 11 years ago. The celebration of the 10th anniversary in April 2011 was not only a tribute to the dedication of the actors of this project during the past 10 years, but also a testament to the relationship built within the community in a decade and laying down the foundation for a program that uniquely benefits our youth. She stated “As after today’s SO, I will be stepping down from my Chair position, I would like to thank the science Olympiad past & present members & each & everyone of you who have been part of this program during the past 11 years & I had the privilege of working with you. These 11 years have been one of the most fulfilling period of my life which I’ll cherish each & every moment of it until the end of my life.”