Bottle rockets soaring through the sky mean more than just Saturday afternoon fun for many children across North Carolina. Thanks to the state’s Science Olympiad program, a partnership with NC State, activities like this become the start of a lifelong love of STEM learning. The competition’s backyard-friendly activities give elementary through high school students an experiential education through hands-on skill development and problem-solving.

St. Andrews Presbyterian College in Laurinburg, N.C., hosted the nation’s first recorded Science Olympiad event in 1974. Today, each state hosts competitions consisting of a series of inquiry-based events integrating biology, earth science, environmental science, chemistry, physics, engineering and technology. NC State houses North Carolina’s Science Olympiad program, and for good reason.

“North Carolina Science Olympiad’s presence in NC State’s Science House helps us fulfill our land-grant mission by providing positive STEM education experiences to students across the state,” said Kim Gervase, executive director of NC Science Olympiad. “We’re more than just a science fair — we’re local, regional and state competitions made up of 23 events that challenge perceptions of STEM education and who can excel in scientific disciplines.”

At the elementary school level, Science Olympiad aligns with the North Carolina Standard Course of Study, supporting teachers’ current classroom curricula. Events balance the various science disciplines and require knowledge of science facts, concepts, processes, skills and applications.

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Originally published April 4, 2018. Written by Emily Packard.