Briar Woods Science Olympiad 2023


For nearly 40 years, Science Olympiad has been a place for great minds to compete and challenge one another. According to the official Science Olympiad website, there are at least 6000 teams in the United States. Science Olympiad starts as early as kindergarten and has different divisions through different levels of schooling. The events are not the same every year, as they differentiate in order to reflect on the changing nature of science. This competition benefits students into exploring various STEM concepts, introduces them to fields of science that can shockingly interest them, and impels them to exercise their cognitive thinking skills. 

Arushi Gadicherla, junior, has been on the Briar Woods High School Science Olympiad team since her freshman year. This year however, she is an officer with fellow junior, Siri Chatradi, and senior, Dilara Haciogullari.

“My favorite part of [science olympiad] is being around a group of peers who share the same interest and passion for science as me,” says Gadicherla. “I hope to place in the states,” Gadicherla continues when asked about some future goals.

A typical meeting consists of announcements and mentions of upcoming events or deadlines. The officers then check in with the members to see how they are doing and progressing with their events. An event or competition is about three to four hours in which members participate in two or three events. Each competition has a focus on a different topic in the science field. 

The Briar Woods Scioly (Science Olympiad) team has two coaches, Tracy Downey and Nicholas Hurtado. They both teach a range of different sciences including biology, chemistry, and physics. Downey had a long history of coaching science olympiad before even coming to this school. From helping start Seneca Ridge Middle School’s team to mentoring one of TJHSST’s Experimental Design events, she knew becoming involved with BWHS’s Science Olympiad team was a must. The coaches of our team have made it clear that BWHS’s Science Olympiad team is not only a passion but a priority to them.

“I feel strongly about coaching Science Olympiad because it gives students the opportunity to explore authentic science topics that they may not have been exposed to previously.” said Tracy Downey, Science Teacher and Scioly Coach.  

This year, the BWHS’s Scioly team was able to make it to the state invitational, placing 8th overall out of all the schools in the district. Based on past results, the team has made immense progress this year. In fact, they were even able to place fourth in the region for the event “Scrambler”, which was done by Freshmans Nishka Illapani and Elizaveta Schevaleva. 

However, going to the state invitational has its cons. There is only a small window of time to memorize, understand, and confidently learn how to apply the concepts of their events. Some of the sharpest teams in the state compete at the Virginia State level, like TJHSST and Langley HS. With that being said, the Science Olympiad state invitational is not to be played around with. Team members/students must have a great amount of resilience, responsibility, and understanding to compete at these invitationals. 

“Students usually medal in events they study hard and work hard at. You get out of it what you put into it.” said Leah Puhlick, Langley High School Scioly Coach.