HMS Science Olympiad thrives from community support

by Emily Canning-Dean

Just as they have for the last several years, the Hudson Middle School Science Olympiad team saw success at the Akron regional tournament and joined an elite set of schools that moved on to the April 27 state tournament.

“Throughout the season, we attend invitational tournaments throughout Northeast Ohio, then there are 13 regional tournaments across the state,” said Jordan Renna, who serves as head coach for the HMS program. “From each of those tournaments, there are between four and six schools that go on to the state competition.”

In 2021, the HMS program was second place in the state and moved on to the national competition where they placed 19th in the country. For the last two years, HMS placed third in the state.

With 48 students and three teams, the Hudson Middle School Science Olympiad is one of the largest Science Olympiad programs in the state.

“It’s kind of like a decathlon for the Olympics,” said Renna, who is a biology teacher at the University of Akron. “There are 23 different events, and you can put 15 kids on a team. Each kid gets two to five events they compete in to fill all of the slots. We have a blue, a silver and a white team with three alternates that can fill in.”

Renna said there are always more students who want to join the program than there are slots, so they host tryouts each September.

This year marks the ninth season for the Hudson Middle School Science Olympiad, and the program has grown steadily.

“It began with three high school students who were part of the high school Science Olympiad team,” Renna said. “They wanted to start a middle school program to get kids excited about science and to create a pipeline to the high school program.”

Renna said that first year there were about a dozen students and three or four parent volunteers. Renna’s daughter was part of the program and after the first season, he offered to step up as the program’s coach. Chirag Patel serves as the program’s assistant coach, and there are more than 30 parent volunteers.

“I think what makes the program special is that it is truly a community program,” Renna said. “We have one or two parents volunteering to help with each of the 23 events and the school is helpful by giving us access to the building on weekdays for practice. Plus, we have some great sponsors.”

Renna explained that the program is self-funded so grants and donations from sponsors go a long way.

“This allows us to pay for the consumables we need for our building activities, for buses, for registration fees,” he said. “It gets very expensive and without these donations and sponsors, we wouldn’t be able to do it.”

Renna said sponsors over the years have included the Hudson Community Foundation, Hudson Kiwanis Foundation, Burton D. Morgan Foundation, Lianda Corp. and the Northeast Ohio STEM Alliance.

The program’s season takes up most of the school year. Students typically spend eight to 10 hours each week studying and practicing. This year alone, the students attended 14 different tournaments throughout their season.

“I think the program provides kids with an opportunity to explore science in a way they often aren’t able to at this age,” Renna said. “While studying for events, they are learning content that they wouldn’t otherwise see until high school or college, but they are doing that in a low-pressure environment. This gives them a solid foundation of understanding in these areas and gives them an opportunity to find their passion.”

Anyone interested in learning more about the program or donating to the program can visit the Hudson Middle School (OH) Science Olympiad Facebook page. ∞

Photo: Mia Teusan and Anna Li compete in Tower, a balsa wood build event, with teammates and family looking on. Photo submitted.