When Megan Chipman attended her first Florida Science Olympiad as a high school junior in 2012, she discovered what she wanted to pursue in college.

Now, the UCF junior studying computer science is helping other young students focus on their futures by serving as one of the event supervisors at the annual state tournament to be hosted Saturday, March 19, at various sites around campus.

Middle and high school students will compete in 23 events in chemistry, biology, earth space science, physics and engineering. The young scientists will use their skills to build bridges, solve crimes, find out what is in different food products, and come up with other solutions to problems.

“I do believe that Science Olympiad had a hand in my decision to pursue a science degree,” said Chipman from Fort Lauderdale. “Because the events offered in Science Olympiad are so diverse, I was able to get a better glimpse of what each field was like in a fun and interactive environment. This not only solidified my decision, but also helped me narrow down my options to fields that I was truly interested in.”

More than 1,200 students who have prepared for months will compete in this year’s statewide Olympiad, which is held annually at UCF. The university has hosted two national Science Olympiads, in 2012 and 2014. The national event started in 1984 and has had more than 210,000 students compete on 7,400 teams from every state.

“Science Olympiad is the nation’s premiere science competition designed to engage students in learning science but also to do it in a way that is fun and exciting,” said Mike McKee, state director for the Florida Science Olympiad and an associate in the College of Optics & Photonics.  “We bring in the top students from around the state, and for many of them it leads to a science, math or engineering career.”

Students compete first in regional competitions to advance to the state tournament. The top middle and high school teams from Florida will be invited to the national tournament in May at the University of Wisconsin, Stout, to compete with 120 of the nation’s best science teams.

The event that Chipman is heading up is Game On!, which is being introduced this Olympiad. Students will be asked to create a functional video game using a coding software. The games will revolve around a scientific theme and will be judged based on game mechanics and overall gameplay.

“It’s a wonderful feeling to be able to participate with the team you worked so hard with, and it’s thrilling to be in a place where you can surround yourself with other science enthusiasts,” Chipman said. “Every time we arrived at the competition I could practically feel the excitement in the air, and when we would leave I would always feel a strong sense of fulfillment. Being a part of the Science Olympiad is both an unforgettable and rewarding experience.”

For more about the Science Olympiad, go to www.floridascienceolympiad.org.