JOHNS CREEK, Ga. — Autrey Mill Middle School’s Science Olympiad team won fourth place in the state science competition held in May at the University of Georgia.
Consisting of 30 students ranging between sixth and eighth grade, the team competed in various competitive events including water quality, anatomy and physiology, Reach for the Stars, Game On, Write It, Cad It and Machines, and Circuit Lab. Because of the pandemic, this marks the first year all competitions were held virtually.
“As the parent of a team member, I’m incredibly proud of my daughter, Abby, and her teammates,” said parent and coach Beth Dowd. “In a year when children have faced so many challenges to keep up with their regular studies, this talented group of students have gone above and beyond. Using the small amount of free time, they have after homework to study while experiencing connection issues, they still leaned in to prepare for invitationals and state.”
Led by science teacher Kayla Garner, the competition allowed for the students to test their skills in areas like genetics, Earth science, chemistry, mechanical engineering and technology, among others. As a team, they competed in a total of 23 events ranking higher than 59 of the best teams in Georgia. Due to COVID, students primarily relied on each other without the assistance of mentors that typically include parents, business leaders and high schoolers.
“Our Science Olympiad students have done fabulously in their individual events despite the unique challenges this academic year has presented,” Garner said. “I appreciate our students’ flexibility and patience as Science Olympiad competed virtually for the first time. Students were able to quickly troubleshoot any technical issues that occurred during testing and devoted a great deal of time each week to prepare for the events.”
This is the second year the school has entered competition. In November 2020, the students competed in their first virtual Division B invitational where they clinched second overall out of 37 schools. In February 2021, the team moved on to the Shorter Invitational where they placed first overall out of the top regional schools, clinching 16 gold, 12 silver and 12 bronze medals in addition to 16 fourth place ribbons.
“[Being virtual] creates more challenges for the children as they not only navigate technical glitches, stop watches since each event is timed, connecting with their partners, only able to use one screen to meet eligibility, and so many other factors to qualify for the competitions,” Dowd said. “That level of commitment combined with hard work will set them apart as they move through high school, college, and onto the workplace.”
Principal Trey Martin said he was proud of the students and their efforts. He addressed the obstacles they overcame to successfully place fourth in the state.
“It is a true testament to the strength of our supportive community in Johns Creek,” he said. “Ms. Garner has done an outstanding job leading this dynamic group of students. I can’t wait to see what the future holds for them. The possibilities are endless,” Martin said.