LOS ANGELES — Established in 2002, the AESA Science Olympiad Committee (SOC) has been organizing an annual Science Olympiad, which promotes interest in engineering and sciences among middle and high school Armenian students. The 20th AESA Science Olympiad was held on Sunday, March 7, 2021 virtually via Zoom. About 60 Armenian young bright minds presented their research in Life and Physical Sciences projects.
The following schools had student representation this year: AGBU Manoogian-Demirdjian School (Canoga Park, CA), A.H. Yeritsyan Gymnasium at MSU Branch (Yerevan, Armenia), Armenian Sisters Academy (Montrose, CA), Clark Magnet High School (La Crescenta, CA), Children of Armenia Fund SMART Center (Lori, Armenia), Eleanor J. Toll Middle School (Glendale, CA), High school N1 after Kh. Abovyan, Hrazdan (Republic of Armenia), Hoover High School (Glendale, CA), La Canada High School (La Canada, CA), Poqrik Ishkhan Educational Complex (Yerevan, Armenia), Ribét Academy (Los Angeles, CA), Rose and Alex Pilibos Armenian School (Los Angeles, CA), Vahan and Anoush Chamlian Armenian School (Los Angeles, CA), V. Abrahamyan High School (Jrahovit, Armenia) and YSMU “Heraci” High School (Yerevan, Armenia).
Sona Juharyan, AESA SOC Chair, welcomed all those in attendance and started the event with the judges’ orientation. SOC members Aida Bareghamian and Araksiya Najarian facilitated the virtual setting and managed the scheduling of project team interviews with multiple judging panels in separate Zoom breakout rooms. A team of over 30 volunteer professional scientist and engineer judges from the USA, Republic of Armenia, and Canada interviewed students to evaluate their presentation skills, creativity, scientific thinking, data analysis, and comprehension. We very much appreciate the expertise of our dedicated judges in inspiring students during their interviews and giving them constructive feedback. We are also excited that a new group of judges joined our event this year and we hope to see them next year as well.
As students were in Zoom’s main room waiting for their turn to be interviewed, SO Committee PR Lead Svetlana Arutyunova warmly communicated with the students and teachers, and offered the audience a few videos, featuring NASA’s Perseverance Mars Rover landing. Here is one of those videos to inspire students’ interest in STEM: NASA’s Perseverance Mars Rover Sample Caching System.
In the afternoon, Special Award sponsors interviewed pre-selected students. CogniCoder, a startup that provides online programming courses for kids, sponsored a Special Award this year. Two winners were awarded a choice of any free class (Scratch, Python, Web Development or Java, more information is available at https://cognicoder.com). This year, the award is offered to students in Los Angeles only, one for Junior and one for Senior level. The criteria for CogniCoder Special Award were:
-Most innovative use of technology
-Logical approach to the problem
-Real life application/utility
-Out of the box thinking
Mr. Gugo Martikyan and Mr. Vahag Karayan, founders of CogniCoder, were so impressed by all students’ projects during interviews that they decided to offer $50 coupons towards any class for all students selected and interviewed for the CogniCoder Special Award, as well as $25 coupon towards any class for every participant of AESA Science Olympiad to recognize their efforts and to promote further learning.
There is a lot of action going on during the event as judges, teachers, parents, sponsors and students can see during the event itself, but there is also a massive effort performed behind the scenes in preparation of the event. Last year it was almost time for the 19th Annual SO, when the pandemic was announced, forcing the team to postpone and eventually cancel the event after all the effort put into it by the organizing committee and participants.
This year, the Science Olympiad differed from previous years in that the whole event was conducted remotely due to the pandemic restrictions. Coordinating a whole day of virtual activities presented some technical challenges, yet students patiently followed the program and made a great impression on the judges. It was especially demanding of students in Armenia, as the time was getting late at night for them and their supportive teachers.
There were many words of appreciation for SOC members. “Thank you Science Olympiad Committee for making Science Olympiad happen during these challenging times. With every activity, AESA is pushing above and beyond its boundaries and we all should be very proud of the organization, its achievements and the future we are creating together, remarked Richard Ohanian, AESA President. In 2021, the prize for 1st place is $250, 2nd place is $150, 3rd place is $100, and honorable mention is $50. Special awards were presented by CogniCoder. Please visit the Science Olympiad page to see the winners.
In addition to the monetary awards for the students, SOC traditionally presents three other appreciation awards: The School of the Year Award, Aram Sarafian Teacher Appreciation Award, and Judge’s Award. The criteria for the school and the teacher appreciation awards are based on the number of winning students, total number of participating projects in each category and level, and the point value of each award. The judge’s award is based on the most number of schools’ science fairs and Science Olympiads judged.
This year, the School Award went to Vahan and Anoush Chamlian Armenian School (Glendale, CA). The School Award consists of $300 to go towards the purchase of equipment for their school’s science laboratory.
The Aram Sarafian Teacher Award is to be presented with a plaque and a $300 check to Ms. Rubina Harutyunyan of YSMU “Heratsi” High School (Yerevan, Armenia).
The Helen Dabaghian Judge Award trophy is to be given to Dr. Louisa Manasyan, who has been a member of SOC for many years and a continuous judge at numerous science fairs.
As always, SOC is grateful to the AESA Science Olympiad Endowment Fund sponsors for financially supporting promotion of science and engineering education! We thank CogniCoder for sponsoring the Special Awards and offering additional rewards to all student participants this year. We also express gratitude to ConnectTo Communications for offering their studio and services for recording AESA Science Olympiad announcements in English, Armenian, and Russian for the AESA Tube channel. In addition, ConnectTo created a brief commercial to raise awareness about the AESA Science Olympiad in the local Armenian community and increase STEM interest in Armenian youth.
AESA Science Olympiad Committee, which is now part of AESA STEM Academy encourages all Armenian students from 6th through 12th grades in public and private schools to consider participating in many of the programs offered in Robotics, Electronics, Biology, Physics, Chemistry and Annual Science Olympiad. We also invite more STEM professionals to join our team and help make a positive difference for the Armenian youth and community by serving as a volunteer, judge, sponsor or SOC member. We look forward to seeing you next year!