Ocean Air Elementary School shines at Science Olympiad

By Haritha Doppalapudi

The youngest elementary school of Del Mar Union School District achieved yet another milestone. Ocean Air kids participated in the prestigious San Diego Regional Science Olympiad held in Rancho Bernardo High School on Feb. 2 for the first time and won medals and ribbons in nine events. About 1,400 students, mostly middle schoolers, from all over San Diego County participated in this competition.

Stacie Waters, the school science teacher, worked tirelessly the past few months getting the Ocean Air teams ready for the competition. She encouraged and personally trained numerous teams. Some parents volunteered as well to coach individual events. Children enthusiastically participated in the training sessions, learned science, built models and conducted scientific experiments.

Being first-time participants in Science Olympiad and the expected intense competition from middle schools, the Ocean Air Elementary students weren’t expecting to win any medals. The kids enjoyed the competition day at Rancho Bernardo High School as if it was a picnic with their friends. The most exciting part of the completion was undoubtedly the award ceremony in the gymnasium. Hundreds of middle schoolers were loudly cheering for their schools, some running around with their banners, some of the schools were stomping “We will, we will rock you..”, creating a sports championship-like atmosphere. Ocean Air students entered the hall not sure what to make of all the noise and quietly settled down on the floor. A few moments later, Liz Jablecki, the San Diego regional director of the event started announcing the winners of the 23 events. Ocean Air students could not believe their ears when they heard their name called out for Rotor Egg Drop for 18th place. It took them a good few seconds before they started screaming with excitement! But, little did they know it was just the beginning of their fantastic performance. They continued to collect prizes in multiple events including 2nd place by Ayush and Shrey Sambhwani in Shock Value. They came in that morning just to participate and experience the largest middle school event in the country. “We did not think we’d have a standing chance, but this had been such a rewarding experience. Just coming here, working as team and competing against all different schools is a fantastic feeling. Our ribbons and awards have inspired us to continue competing in these competitions,” said Dhathry Doppalapudi, an Ocean Air 5th grade student. She and Ayush Desai were placed 18th in Metric Mastery. “It was a great learning experience and lots of fun at the same time”, said Ayush. “Looking at the teams full of 7th and 8th graders at the event room was a little intimidating but we wanted to do our best,” said Soumika Guduru. “I loved everything about the event day and awards ceremony,” Shreya Gopala chimed in. They were the 7th prize winners for Disease Detectives.

Elated by the school’s performance, Stacie Waters beamed ear to ear. She said, “Better than any wins in this experience was the personal growth and team building that we gained through this stretch and competition. With our first year, our hard work did not get utilized to its potential.” She is already geared up for next year. Stacie Waters and Holly Jing, a parent coach doubled as the event coordinators as well.

Sharad Sambhwani, coach for Shock Value said, “It is indeed a satisfying moment. The main goal was to ensure that the kids learn fundamental concepts via such events. The medal was just a bonus.” His students won 2nd and 6th prizes in Shock Value. “It was indeed a pleasure to see Ocean Air school win so many medals and ribbons for their first year. Outstanding! You have a great set of kids, extremely dedicated and full of surprises!” said Kalpana Gidwani, a Carmel Valley Middle School parent.

“The teachers, students and parents spent an incredible amount of time and energy but it was well worth it. Overall a great learning and rewarding experience,” said Dimple, one of the parents.

Seetha Janakiraman (coached Disease Detectives) and Mani Guduru (coached Heredity) were in complete agreement when they said that it was a fulfilling experience to coach eager and willing students for SO and capture their interest in science. To them, the students’ enthusiasm and positive attitude towards SO participation made it all worthwhile. They are eagerly looking forward to coach next year!

Students who participated in the event included: Abigail McRea, Aida Razavilar, Alfred Quan, Ashley Jabro, Ayush Desai, Blake Currier, Brandon Teren, Cade Eastlack, Conor Reily, Dhathry Doppalapudi, Estelle Qi, Ethan Wang, Jack Rogaski, Jasmine Jin, Justin Zhang, Kashika Rathore, Katrina Baha, Marco Napolitano, Neha Agrawal, Pratik Rungta, Ronak Roy, Samina Engel, Shrey Sambhwani, Shreya Gopala, Soumika Guduru, Suhas Sakamuri, Taka Uno, Troy Manzana, Wesley Zhang, Wyatt Eastlack.

Event coaches were: Stacie Waters, Seetha Janakiraman, Mani Guduru, Deepa Sushil, Sharad Sambhwani, Daylen Teren,Pam Rogaski, Ms.Beeson, Latha Roy, Sudha Rathore, Holly Jing, Srinivasu Kalluri, Ramana Doppalapudi.