Monday, April 12, 2010

She Blinded Me With Science

This weekend we took our oldest daughter Caitlin to the State Competition for Science Olympiad at the University of Illinois. Yeah, I didn't know there was any such thing either until my 7th grader came home one day wanting to sign up for some academic club. "Sure, honey, that sounds nice." I was clueless.

We've been secretly pretty happy that until this year; Ryan has only been involved in baseball, Maggie, while being extremely naturally atheletic, is also extremely unambitious and Caitlin, well...Cait's not into sports. So Saturdays have not been crazy busy and unlike most American parents we haven't been shuttling our kids back and forth to practices and games. Until now. Except the games are high level academic tests and you compete against 39 other schools when you make it to state.

So we trekked down to Champaign in central Illinois on Friday night - spent the night in a Drury Inn with 100's of other middle and high school kids-miraculously got a little bit of sleep and shlepped Caitlin to the campus by 8:30 am Saturday. Since this is our first year in the program we didn't know what to expect beyond what we'd seen at Regionals.

First off - U of I is HUGE. I mean it's one big sprawling campus for a 13 year old girl to navigate let alone her starry-eyed parents. She was equipped with a map to direct her to the different buildings she would be in throughout the day, and a lot of God given confidence. She had prepared to compete in three events; Ornithology (birds for you non-science types), Dynamic Planet (earthquakes and such) and Road Scholars (maps and more maps -my father-in-law would have loved this one).

She had plenty of time between events and spent most of that time off in their miniscule "homeroom" for the day in the English building playing DS and eating homemade snacks one of the veteran mom's had brought along for the day. It was 74 and sunny outside.

Dan and I and the twins hung out on the quad throwing around a football, occasionally walking the campus (until we all whined and complained about how our ankles/calves/legs hurt respectively) and people watching. People watching on a college campus on a warm spring day with special events is quite entertaining. There were cheerleaders and big burly co-eds throwing them up in the air like paper airplanes to inspire Maggie to clap and Dan and I to resolve to maybe start working out a little bit more. There were business men and women there for some expo looking stiff in suits that suited a snowy day more than the one they were stuck wearing them on. And of course there were a ton of undergrads lying around making the most of the summer-like weather.

But the Science Olympiad crew were by far the most entertaining. These kids are proud to be geeks and if you couldn't pick them out by their appearance (which you generally could) they wore shirts to tip you off that read things like; "If you can read this you're standing too close to my awesomeness", "Float Like A Lepidoptera, Sting Like A Apis mellifera." Or, my personal favorite, "The only thing we date is Carbon 14." If you've never seen the movie "Real Genius" with Val Kilmer from the 80's, rent it. Seriously. They were like that.

And then there were the parents. Oh the parents. They were hard core, tail-gaiting, matching-T-Shirt-wearing cheerleaders with signs, mascots and really bad jeans. Although I can honestly say that next to these parents, our school's were rock star cool.

So finally after several trips to the student union - where there is a bowling alley, billiards room, lots of flat screen T.V.'s and most importantly fast food, we made it to the awards ceremony. It began at 5:00 pm.

We were all corraled in the wrestling gym where it was about 92 degrees. There was some illustrious profressor who wanted to inspire the kids to pursue science both in college and as a career and he droned on for quite awhile. I'm sure certain people in the crowd were captivated, but not even the biggest self-professed nerds were interested after the sweat began flowing. Then the MC took over (who was movin' it along, thank God) but it still took almost two hours to distribute all the awards. Caitlin didn't place in any of her events, but four of her teammates did and the school got 6th overall place out of 39 so that was pretty impressive. By the end of the day she just wanted to eat and sit in a cool car instead of a hot gym.

We got home around 11:15 pm last night (Saturday) and were so exhausted we let the kids sleep in and skip church. Caitlin, such a trooper, spent her last day of the weekend doing homework and practicing the french horn and talking about how cool it will be next year when she's in 8th grade and Mead will make it Nationals.

Sure, honey, that sounds nice.

No comments: