It’s highly likely that some of the 11,000 students who participate in the NC Science Olympiad will grow up to help find cures for diseases, make our world a cleaner place or invent the next great technology. We couldn’t tell you the actual probability, although we're sure some of the Olympians could.
The NC Science Olympiad is a series of tournaments in which teams of students from across the state compete in events based on several areas of science, including biology, earth science, environmental science, chemistry, physics, engineering and technology. The NC Science Olympiad’s mission is to encourage students in North Carolina to pursue degrees and careers in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM). The NCCF is proud to support the program by administering the organization’s endowment, a statewide fund that was created this past year.
The tournaments showcase the fun and excitement of STEM fields. Students don’t just answer questions. They build musical instruments and helicopters, solve crime scenes and conduct lab experiments. It’s easy to see why the NC Science Olympiad, founded in 1974 and the first of its kind in the U.S., has inspired similar competitions in other states and a national-level tournament.
In 2012, 600 teams from elementary, middle and high schools in 65 counties in North Carolina participated in the program, which consists of regional tournaments and then a statewide tournament held in April at NC State University. The students can win medals or trophies or the big prize—a scholarship to NC State.
Beyond the thrill of competition, the NC Science Olympiad also introduces students to opportunities they might have never known existed. Kelly Fair, program coordinator for the NC Science Olympiad, is a former participant and knows this first-hand.
“The students get to do things they’d never get to do in the classroom and meet people in careers they never knew existed,” Fair said. “They get to tour labs at NC State and explore and talk to scientists and graduate students to get a feel for what is out there.”
However, organizing such a complex series of tournaments and events isn’t easy and was made even harder when the program lost state funding in 2011.
“That money was half our operating budget,” Fair said. “We’ve been scrambling to chase down grants and funding. It’s meant a lot more work just to maintain the level that we were at even two years ago, without cutting programs that are beneficial to the students… We’re just trying to keep up.”
The NC Science Olympiad Endowment Fund has helped ensure the stability of the organization. The statewide endowment is more important than ever to support the program into the future -- and to support the future of STEM fields in North Carolina.
Learn more information about the NC Science Olympiad here.