One of the nation’s most prestigious science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) competitions, Science Olympiad brings together 120 winning middle school and high school teams advancing from state-level competitions this spring. Rigorous hands-on and lab events led by experts from government agencies, top universities and Science Olympiad state chapters cover topics in physics, epidemiology, astronomy, chemistry, meteorology and engineering.

Each gold medal winner in a high school-level event will receive a scholarship to the University of Central Florida worth up to $30,000. Champion teams from the Science Olympiad National Tournaments in 2010 and 2011were invited to Washington, DC, for President Obama’s White House Science Fair. This year, Science Olympiad welcomes a Global Ambassador Team from Japan to the National Tournament. Since 2009, Science Olympiad has worked with the Japan Science and Technology Agency (JST) and the Ministry for Education (MEXT) to share best practices and science content. In 2012, JST hosted its first-ever Japan High School Science Competition (JHSSC), crowning eight winners from the Saitama Prefecture. The Grand Prize for the competition is a trip to visit the National Tournament, where Japanese students will meet their American peers and participate as guests in selected Science Olympiad events.

UCF facilities will be home to a full day of spectator events (free and open to the public) on Saturday, May 19.  Teams will compete in challenges such as Helicopters, a flight endurance contest powered by rubber-band engines; Storm the Castle, a precision catapult exercise; Mission Possible, a Rube Goldberg device using energy transfers to complete a task; and Gravity Vehicle, a test of a car’s speed, estimation and accuracy. On Friday and Saturday, the US Army ROTC Aviation Adventure Semi and the US Air Force Command Center Alpha will be in Parking Lot D2. These interactive exhibits showcase the science behind each branch of the military, complete with flight simulators, technology displays, digital downloads an actual F-16 Air Force fighter jet. Check out the lineup of events at:

Representing Florida Science Olympiad are Orlando Science Middle School, Archimedean Upper Conservatory in Miami, Archimedean Middle Conservatory in Miami and Boca Raton Community High School in Boca Raton.

Local sponsors of the 2012 Science Olympiad National Tournament include the University of Central Florida, Progress Energy and Harris Corporation. Science Olympiad is supported nationally by US Army ROTC, Lockheed Martin, Texas Instruments, US Air Force, Centers for Disease Control (CDC), Discovery Education, DuPont, Google, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), Science Kit & Boreal Laboratories, Academy of Model Aeronautics, MAKE Magazine, Society for Neuroscience, The Groundwater Foundation and VWR Education.

Science Olympiad is a Chicago-area-based national nonprofit organization founded in 1984. It is dedicated to improving the quality of K-12 STEM education, increasing student interest in science, creating a technologically literate workforce and providing recognition for outstanding achievement by both students and teachers. Nearly 200,000 students on 6,400 teams from all 50 states competed in 350 regional, state and national Science Olympiad tournaments last year.