Phone: (616) 786-2050

Science Olympiad

Welcome to West Ottawa’s Science Olympiad!

Science Olympiad Goals

To create a passion for learning science by supporting elementary and secondary Science Olympiad tournaments at building, district, county, state and national levels with an emphasis on teamwork and a commitment to excellence.

To improve the quality of K-12 science education throughout the nation by changing the way science is perceived and the way it is taught (with an emphasis on problem solving and hands-on, minds-on constructivist learning practices). This goal is accomplished through in-depth core curriculum training workshops and the distribution of curriculum materials.

To celebrate and recognize the outstanding achievement of both students and teachers in the areas of science and technology by awarding thousand of certificates, medals, trophies and scholarships.

To promote partnerships among community, businesses, industry, government and education.

Science Olympiad Goals

The Science Olympiad program was developed to:

  • Create a passion for learning science;
  • Improve the quality of science education throughout the nation;
  • Recognize outstanding achievements of students;
  • Promote partnerships between school, business, and industry; and
  • Restructure the way science is taught.

2015 team WOSO


History of West Ottawa’s Science Olympiad

  • Science Olympiad started in the State of Michigan 27 years ago.
  • Coach Bob Myers started West Ottawa’s team in 1999.
  • West Ottawa entered only partial teams the first two years.
  • The 2004-05 team was the first to be State Champions and placed 15th in the Nation!
  • The 2001-02 team was the first to compete in all 23 events, and it placed 13th in one of the toughest Regionals in the Nation!


High School Division:

 Year                 Regional Ranking   State Ranking    National Ranking
 2000  19  —  —
 2001  19
 —  —
 2002  13  —  —
 2003  5  26  —
 2004  4  2  16
 2005  2  1  15
 2006  2  2  13
 2007  3  4  —
 2008  2  3  —
 2009  4  4  —
 2010  2  2  17
 2011  2  2   22
 2012  5  7  —
 2013  4  10  —
 2014  4  8  —
 2015  3  7  —
 2016  3  6  — 


2016-17 Events

Alumni Stories- Molecular Chemistry

“Simply put, my time on the Science Olympiad team at West Ottawa was the most formative experience in motivating and enabling me to pursue a career in science. Science Olympiad forced me to wrestle with uncertainty and pursue knowledge outside of the structure of a course curriculum. This is ideal preparation for a career in research, where one operates on the frontier of human knowledge on a daily basis. Science Olympiad is uniquely effective in teaching students how to master new fields and how to work as a team to achieve a common goal.”

-Keary Engle Class of 2003


By: Keary Engle (BA 2007 Chemistry and Economics) Originally posted on “tumblr”


10 years ago, working at my cramped and cluttered desk, which sat below a lofted bed in my South Quad dorm room, I sent an email that changed my life.

I arrived on campus in Ann Arbor two months earlier to start my freshman year, and having settled into the rhythm of the semester, I was eager to get involved in some sort of research project. I gravitated towards opportunities in the Chemistry Department since I was enjoying CHEM 210/211 and since I had previously participated in a range of chemistry-related events for the West Ottawa High School Science Olympiad team.

To narrow down the long list of chemistry faculty members, I attempted to read through research descriptions online. I quickly found, however, that comprehending even these short synopses was a major challenge. Somewhat dismayed, I forced myself to press forward until I ultimately stumbled upon a description that mentioned, “polymer heteronuclei for crystal polymorph selection.” I was delighted to recognize at least one word in that description, ‘polymer.’ Polymer science was a subject that was near and dear to my heart, as one of my events in Science Olympiad had been Polymer Detectives. I read through the description a few more times, and ultimately penciled “Adam Matzger” onto the top of my list of professors to contact. I cobbled together a few sentences introducing myself and explaining why I was interested in Adam’s research and sent it away to him, not really expecting much.

To my tremendous surprise, Adam replied almost immediately, inviting me to visit his lab and sit in on a group meeting. By the end of the week, I was an official member of the Matzger group, working with a graduate student named Kate Plass. I was elated, but nervous. I had never set foot in a chemistry research lab, and everyone in my group was performing experiments that literally no one in the world had ever done before.

I was hoping to cut my teeth by washing glassware for a few hours per week and learning through osmosis, but Kate and Adam had other plans. Within a few days of starting, I learned how to manipulate atomically flat highly-ordered pyrolytic graphite sheets, which costs upwards of $500 a piece, and to operate a scanning tunneling microscope, an instrument that was worth tens of thousands of dollars.

Looking back, what amazes me most about my early experiences in the Matzger lab is not necessarily the limitless resources that I instantly had access to. It’s the fact that Adam and Kate were willing to take me on and nurture my budding sense of scientific curiosity, despite having seemingly nothing to gain from doing so. Their trust, faith, and confidence were truly remarkable. Here I was, a scrawny 17-year old from a small town in Western Michigan, and world-class researchers were taking it upon themselves to teach me to understand and contribute to their projects—never mind that I knew nothing about chemistry research and that my previous two jobs were painting houses and refereeing U10 indoor soccer games.

Adam and Kate’s mentorship shaped my career in ways that I could have never anticipated at the time. I ended up working in the Matzger group for all four years that I was an undergrad in LSA, and I even managed to publish two research articles with Adam and Kate describing new aspects of two-dimensional molecular self-assembly. Motivated by this experience, I sought other research opportunities and had the good fortune to find positions in labs all around the world: University of Stuttgart, Max-Planck-Institute for Coal Research, Scripps Research Institute, University of Tokyo, and University of Oxford. This past summer, I completed graduate school, and I recently moved to Caltech, where I’m working as a postdoc with Robert Grubbs, a 2005 Nobel Laureate, who fittingly enough, also mentored Adam as a postdoc 15 years ago.

The profound impact that Adam and Kate had on me has inspired me to pay forward these same values to the next generation through mentorship. I’ve served as a research mentor for high school students, undergrads, and junior grad students, and in all cases, the experience has been immensely fulfilling. Based on my own experience at Michigan, I know that my responsibility as a mentor is not merely to get the next generation excited about science; it’s also to instill in them the confidence that they can become great scientists irrespective of their background or previous knowledge. I try to give younger students a chance to pursue their passion, and I support them unconditionally along their journey. In this way, I’d like to think that I pass on a small piece of LSA for the next generation to share.

Alumni Stories- Evolutionary Biology

“It took me several years and a few degrees to realize it, but Science Olympiad was my first opportunity to experience how science often works in the real world: You’re plunged into new fields and challenges with students who were often not in the same group as yourself. You’ve got a set deadline, and have to work together in building, solving problems, and doing and applying the (often only tangential) learning that you all bring to the table from your different courses. When it comes to competition day, sometimes your preparation and planning work out, and sometimes it’s back to the drawing board! New challenges and productive collaboration are foundations of exciting science and research, and Science Olympiad gives students a great primer to that world.”

-Julian Dupuis, Class of 2004

Julian Dupuis, PhD candidate

From the Sperling Lab, 2016

Julian D

Hybridization is increasingly recognized as a complex evolutionary phenomenon that can facilitate and inhibit speciation in multiple ways. This complexity creates methodological difficulty for species delimitation, but also sheds new light on how we view biodiversity and speciation in general. My research interests focus broadly on evolutionary biology, speciation, and hybridization, and I use a combination of phylogenetic, population genetic, and genomic tools to investigate the evolutionary histories of primarily insect groups.

My PhD research focuses on hybridization in the Papilio machaon species group of swallowtail butterflies, at large and small geographic scales. Hybridization is widespread in this group, and several lineages across North America are thought to be of hybrid origin (Dupuis & Sperling 2015). These lineages share intriguing genetic similarities (particularly identical mitochondrial DNA haplotypes, despite thousands of kilometers of geographic separation), but are also genomically distinct to varying degrees. Current and ongoing research explores the genomic characteristics of these lineages with respect to their hybrid origins and phylogeography. At a finer scale, my PhD research investigates how characteristics of the landscape influence dispersal and population structure, and facilitate or inhibit hybridization between Papilio machaon and P. zelicaon in western Canada. This research combines spatial ecology and population genetic methods into a landscape genetics approach.

I’m also involved in ongoing projects on various butterfly groups (metalmarks, theApodemia mormo species group; tiger swallowtails, the Papilio glaucus species group; and the swallowtail butterflies as a whole, family Papilionidae), moths (spruce budworm, Choristoneura spp.), as well as other insect groups (hump-backed grigs,Cyphoderris spp.).

Prior to starting my M.Sc. at the University of Alberta, I earned a B.Sc. in biology and chemistry at Northern Michigan University. During my Bachelors I conducted research on the population genetics of the common loon (Gavia immer), which included identifying single nucleotide polymorphisms and applying a novel restriction digestion and polymerase chain reaction technique to genotype birds for cost-effective population-based analysis. During the summers of my Bachelors, I worked as an aquatic ecologist and fisheries biologist for the United States Forest Service and the National Park Service.

julian profile picPublications:

Alumni Stories- Research Scientist

danny Daniel Endean, Research Scientist – Honeywell Aerospace, Plymouth, MN

Technical lead for the TIMU contract developing compact MEMS IMU
Primary test scientist of MEMS gyroscopes
Digital signal processor software development

Daniel Endean, Class of 2005″Where in high school do you learn how to estimate how many ping-pong balls could fit in Lake Michigan?  When do you get build a Rube Goldberg machine that contains 50 different steps, requires electronics, chemistry, building skills, and creativity, and has to work perfectly every time?  In what class do you build a mathematical model to predict how far a trebuchet will shoot?  When do you get to explore fields like botany, satellite imaging, or polymer chemistry? I got to do all of this in Science Olympiad.  No part of my high school career (including those advance placement and college credit classes) prepared me for my career as a scientist like Science Olympiad.  Plus, it was a ton of fun!”

PublicationsJohnson B., K. Christ, D. Endean, B. Mohr, R. Supino, H. French, E. Cabuz, Tuning fork MEMS gyroscope for precision northfinding, Inertial Sensors and Systems 2015, (submitted).Endean D., C. Weigelt, R. Victora, E. D. Dahlberg, Tunable random telegraph noise in square permalloy dots, Appl. Phys. Lett., 104, 252408 (2014).Endean D., C. Weigelt, R. Victora, E. D. Dahlberg, Measurements of configurational anisotropy in isolated sub-micron square permalloy dots, Appl. Phys. Lett., 103, 042409 (2013).

Endean D., E. D. Dahlberg, J. Heyman, S. Maat, Quantitative Measurements of Giant Magnetoresistance at Microwave Frequencies, Phys. Rev. B, 84, 212405 (2011).

Endean D., B. Costanzi, D. Green, A. Legard, D. Olson, G. Williams, J. Engbrecht, Analysis of the Potential for sub-eV Ps Beams, Nucl. Inst. and Methods in Physics Research B, 266,502 (2007).

Endean D., E. Manlove, K. Henry, Zero-Divisor Graphs of Zn and Polynomial Quotient Rings over Zn, Rose Hulman Undergraduate Math Journal, (2007).

PatentsEndean, D., B. Martin, R. D. Horning 2015. Low temperature wafer bonding. U.S. Patent Application No. 14/722,910, filed May 2015. Patent Pending.

Alumni Stories- Zookeeper

Jen Richrdson, Orinithologist and Zookeeper

Unnamed image (26)

20160209_093001Seven years ago I was an awkward high school freshmen, interested in science and learning rather than sports, trying to find a place to fit in. When I heard about WOSO I thought I might have actually found such a place. Here was a group of students who shared my passion for science and learning, and were also some of the nicest, most welcoming, high school students around. My teammates are still some of my closest friends. Lead by an amazing team of teachers, WOSO helped to shape my future and get me to where I am today.

I am currently a full time zookeeper at the Fort Worth Zoo in Texas. I work mainly with penguins and flamingos as well as a multitude of other avian species. The Ornithology events were my first real exposure to bird identification. Sure, I knew the common backyard birds, but I had never really tried to identify birds by call alone, or learned their taxonomy. The skills I learned in WOSO helped me in my college Ornithology classes, when I had to learn every bird. Now that I work with birds, I’m so grateful to have learned so much about birds early on. Taxonomy alone allows us to anticipate behaviors from our birds, even though we might not have had much experience with that exact species. We can connect the behavior of similar species to our new birds, so that we can prepare appropriate nests and habitats before the birds even arrive.

WOSO also taught me critical thinking skills, improved my memorization, and taught me how to actually study. Without these skills, college would have been much more challenging.  I graduated a semester early with a degree in Biology and Zoology and lots of animal experience. I’m very proud to have been a part of the WOSO team. Go WO!

20160205_083337  Jen Richardson Class of 2012


Please Contact:

Bob Myers, WOSO Coach
3600 152nd Ave.
Holland, MI 49424
Phone: (616) 738-1100 ext 6109

WOSO Team Website(High School)/Practice Calendar
Science Olympiad National Website


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