By JESSICA KIM COHEN
For the first time, members of the University of Chicago Laboratory High School science team attended and placed at a national competition hosted by the Technology Students Association (TSA).
The competition, titled “Tests of Engineering Aptitude, Mathematics and Science (TEAMS),” was part of the larger national TSA conference at Gaylord National Resort and Convention Center in Washington, D.C., June 27 to July 1. One of many contests offered at the conference, TEAMS emphasizes “real-world” applications of math and science, according to TSA.
The two Lab teams, divided into eight freshmen and sophomores and eight juniors and seniors, participated in three events – oral, problem solving and written. The freshman and sophomore team placed fourth in the nation for problem solving, following High Technology High School from New Jersey, Clayton High School from Missouri and Newton North High School from Massachusetts.
For problem solving, participants had 50 minutes to build a structure, write a short paper justifying their design and answer multiple-choice questions about the physics behind it.
The Lab freshmen and sophomores were able to answer questions using their math knowledge, despite not having taken any physics courses.
“All of the formulas were given, and there were some background readings explaining some of the terms for the physics questions,” said Wanqi Zhu, freshman. “We could answer them as long as we understood what the formula means, so we could try to choose the right formula, plug it in and find the answer.”
Being at a large conference was a new experience for the science team.
“Although the TEAMS competition itself was normally sized for us, I was surprised to walk into the hotel and see the giant teeming masses of everyone going to all these other competitions,” said Arjun Nandy, senior and captain of both TEAMS teams. “We also had to wear formal attire. Usually you can just go to competitions in a shirt and jeans, but they wanted a strict dress code, formal wear, at everything. It made it feel more professional in a sense.”
Moving forward, Lab’s science team is considering starting a TSA chapter at the school.
“Being exposed to the rest of the conference, the students saw a lot of interesting things going on,” said James Catlett, Lab science teacher and faculty advisor for the science team. “It’s something we’re going to have to look into, and we’ll see in the fall when we return to school.”