The packed stands in the gymnasium of Lawrence Jones Middle School were uncharacteristically quiet last Saturday afternoon as a hush fell over the crowd to see which egg would break in the infamous “naked egg drop” of the North Bay Science Challenge. After a 3, 2, 1 countdown eggs came soaring down, some falling to their demise, others landing softly in a nest of paper to the loud cheers of fellow classmates and proud parents in the stands.
The naked egg drop is the grand finale of 13 different events of this year’s science challenge, in which a team builds an egg catcher out of paper within 15 minutes. Then raw eggs are dropped from increasing heights, starting at 1.4 meters, to see which catcher can catch the egg from the greatest height without the egg breaking. This year’s winners were Stephanie Melendez and Ariana Carlos from Roseland Collegiate Prep school whose egg didn’t break even after clearing the top of the measuring sticks at an astonishing height of 3.07 meters. The egg of the second place team, from Helen Lehman Elementary School, broke at 2.5 meters.
The North Bay Science Challenge is the brainchild of Mike Roa, who first started the event when he worked as the science consultant for the Sonoma County Office of Education 11 years ago. Even though he is no longer employed at SCOE since 2013, he continues to organize this event as a fun and educational opportunity for fourth through eighth grade students.
“There are about 250 kids participating this year,” says Roa. “We have 18 teams from 15 schools. It’s open to anyone in the North Bay, but all schools this year are from Sonoma County. There are two divisions – division I is 4th through 6th-grade and division II is 6th through 8th-grade.”
The schools who participated this year include San Miguel Elementary School, McNear Elementary School, Luther Burbank Elementary School, Adele Harrison Middle School, Helen Lehman Elementary School, The Presentation School, McKinley Elementary School, Bellevue Elementary School, Monte Vista Elementary, Waugh Elementary School, Lawrence Jones Middle School, Lawrence Cook Middle School, Petaluma Junior High School, Rincon Valley Middle School and Roseland Collegiate Prep.
The 13 different events at the challenge gave students a chance to demonstrate their science knowledge and skills. Students prepared ahead of time to increase their understanding of science, as well as developed skills such as teamwork, creativity, persistence, problem solving and cooperation. Each event was presented in a competition format, including “Taking Flight” where teams make paper airplanes and compete to see which one flies the farthest, “Picture This,” in which scientific terms are illustrated that teammates try to identify like in the game of Pictionary, “Critters R Us,” where participants had to guess the identity of an animal in 20 questions and “Investigations,” where students had to use provided materials to design and carry out experiments to answer questions.
“I love seeing the excitement of the kids being excited about science stuff and working together and having fun,” says Roa.
Besides the students working together in teams, the community also collaborated to make the event a success. Over 70 volunteers acted as judges and helpers and many local organizations helped sponsor the event, from the American Society of Civil Engineers, the Lions Club of Cotati, the American Council of Engineering Companies, several local Rotary clubs and many more.
At the end of the day, seeing so many smiling, beaming faces enthusiastic about science showed that all the hard work paid off.
“I like all the different events and all the schools coming together, says Kory Huppert from Waugh Elementary School, which had a team of fourteen children participating. “I liked being able to meet different people, and the schools competing with each other.”