Science Olympiad!

The event we hosted was a Science Olympiad tournament to over 900 students across Michigan and surrounding states. Science Olympiad is a high school competition consisting of 23 different STEM-related with emphases in areas like astronomy, herpetology, physiology, and several others. Events range from completing a test to piloting a pre-built device, to completing a lab experiment.

All in all, I would say the Science Olympiad tournament that we hosted was very successful, albeit with a few hiccups along the way. Throughout the days leading up to the competition and during the competition we did run into a few problems. For example two teams decided to cancel attending relatively last minute. Although annoying, the event itself was not dramatically negatively impacted as we still had the vast majority of the other teams attending. However, the team did discuss what could be done in the future to discourage this type of behavior. Possible discussed solutions included a fine, not inviting them back among others. Other problems arose during the day of the competition when we discovered that we could not unlock several rooms that we had reserved before-hands. This caused one of our events to run a little behind schedule as we had to quickly find alternate classrooms for our participants. An unexpected fire-drill further exacerbated this problem. Nevertheless, the team stayed adaptable and found suitable accommodations relatively quickly. The last problem we ran into was the discovery that for one of the events, the final scores had been tabulated incorrectly, altering some placements for teams. To rectify this, we quickly sent out an apology after the event with updated standings and offered to send medals to teams that were affected.

Overall, from the feedback we received from our participants, the event itself was organized very well. Compared to many other invitationals that they’ve been to, ours was organized at a much grander scale and generally provided better facilities. The additional prizes we gave to first place teams was also a welcome feature. For some individuals, the tests we provided were deemed “too hard”. However, we actually created difficult exams by design to truly test the preparation and intellect of our participants.


The event also developed several leadership skills and BLI habits. For example, we worked hard to build a team that had complementary goals and skill-sets from the executive board, to our sub- teams, to our volunteers. We also remained adaptable the days leading up to and during the competition when a lot of unforeseen mishaps arose.

Lastly, we worked hard to engage as many students as possible in our event in order to share our love of science and learning with as many individuals as possible.
From the team’s perspective, we are extremely pleased about how this event turned out and look forward to making it even better moving forward. This is something that we will continue discussing and planning throughout this year and next.

 

By: Adam Shen

WeListen​ ​at​ ​the​ ​University​ ​of​ ​Michigan

After the 2016 presidential election, deep divisions appeared on campus down ideological lines. American politics had split our country, and the University of Michigan. A common national narrative began to appear about students who were unwilling to engage with their political foes in a constructive way. But those weren’t the Ann Arbor students we knew.

We founded WeListen to create a place at Michigan for the curious and engaged students we had met — studying humanities, music, engineering, public policy, and business — to discuss and learn about politics in a non-debate setting. The goal of WeListen is to bring students from across the political spectrum — liberal, conservative, and everywhere in between — together to engage in discussions about difficult political topics.

Thanks to a BLI Small Project Grant, we were able to host eleven discussion sessions over the 2017-2018 academic year on topics including immigration, gun control, abortion, and free speech. Our first session, on Refugees in America, attracted just fifteen participants. As we improved our methodology and word spread, WeListen grew. Our first session of second semester brought 93 students together to discuss Free Speech, while maintaining strong conservative presence, and keeping discussion civil. Soon after, a group of University of Michigan staff members formed a committee to start the WeListen Staff Series — a monthly, staff-only set of WeListen sessions.

In 2016, there was no place to go after the election to find out why someone voted for the ‘other side.’ After the midterm elections this year — thanks to BLI’s generous support — students can attend a WeListen- and CSG-led discussion to get to know students who don’t think (or vote) like they do.

By: Gabriel Lerner