Most weekends, student-athletes can be found practicing their sports at the brand new Portola High School. In a sense, the Jeffrey Trail Science Olympiad invitational was no different, except that rather than competing with their bodies, middle school students competed with their minds - all 1200 of them.
However this year, something was different. As the middle schoolers launched their bottle rockets and flew their balsa gliders in the main gym, a group of elementary kids were flying their own balsa gliders and paper airplanes. In fact, like the middle schoolers, these elementary schoolers were competing for the Science Olympiad medals awarded for the longest flying balsa glider and paper airplanes.
This competition was part of a new outreach program, the product of a partnership between Jeffrey Trail Science Olympiad and Aerovate, a nonprofit organization run by high school students.
We run many events similar to the one at Jeffrey Trail, in an effort to empower students in STEAM. After the Science Olympiad event, a parent of a competitor commented, “Normally, when it comes to anything educational, my kid is itching to get out. Today, he was begging to stay.” Nevertheless, Aerovate isn’t just about the elementary students it hosts competitions for. It is also a learning experience for the high school students volunteers involved. Aerovate strives to teach its volunteers essential soft skills such as teamwork, business management, and responsibility.
Above all, volunteers have fun, instilling a lifelong appreciation for service. Since our beginning, we have impacted close to 2000 students, volunteers, and adults through our airplane competitions, fun lessons, and community service events.
We now have multiple chapters in California, Wisconsin, and Taiwan with each chapter holding events.
However, we weren’t always this organized. The summer after sophomore year, I had begun to rediscover my interest in the fields of STEM, in particular aerospace engineering. I wanted to share my newfound interest, but I wasn’t really sure how. There are already thousands of volunteer tutor organizations out there, and I wanted to create something different, something with a spark of innovation.
I found this spark one day thinking about my own experiences in Science Olympiad.
I had always been heavily involved in Science Olympiad and I realized the competition aspect could be my spark. However, unlike Science Olympiad,
I wanted Aerovate to be student-run so that we could benefit both the competitors and volunteers. In the beginning it was tough. Since I was on summer break, the only way I could reliably reach people was through social media. In that time frame, I became a master at both sliding into people’s DM’s and handling rejection. Eventually,
I was able to get a few people who were interested, and we decided to hold a summer competition. From there, our organization grew into what it was today. You can learn more about our story on our website at https://aerovate.org/. You can also visit the Jeffrey Trail Science Olympiad website at https://jtsoinvite.weebly.com/.
<Jack Tian / Troy High School 11th Grade