New Albany Middle School and New Albany High School placed first and third, respectively, at the Science Olympiad regional competition March 17 at Grandview Heights High School.

New Albany Middle School and New Albany High School placed first and third, respectively, at the Science Olympiad regional competition March 17 at Grandview Heights High School.

Grandview Heights placed second.

The New Albany teams will go on to the state competition April 28 at The Ohio State University.

"I've been coaching for 17 years, and this is the best we've ever done," middle school Olympiad coach Kirsten Jaster said. "We beat 15 other local schools."

Science Olympiads are like academic track meets, comprising a series of 23 events in each division (Division B is middle school; Division C is high school). Events range from constructing bottle rockets to "CSI"-style events in which students use hair-fiber analysis and other scientific methods to solve hypothetical crimes.

The Science Olympiad encourages a cross section of students to get involved.

"There's a whole gamut of learning styles that it hits," Jaster said. "It promotes a culture where it's cool to be a nerd."

Through Science Olympiad, students work toward a common goal. Two teams from the middle school and high school competed in the regional competition. The middle school's secondary - "junior varsity" - team placed third, and the high school's junior varsity team earned sixth place.

Although the junior varsity teams won't go on to the state competition, "they beat out everyone else's top strong teams," Jaster said.

At the state competition, New Albany Middle School, coached by Jaster, and New Albany High School, coached by Keith Rusnak, will compete among the top 40 middle and high schools from Ohio.

"Our goal at the state is to crack the top 10," Jaster said. "We've been as high as 12 out of 40 teams."

Although the New Albany teams are well-prepared, they will face steep competition at the state level, Jaster said.

"Ohio is an extremely rich competitive Olympiad state. Other states, they don't have half the numbers competing that we have," she said. "We are one of the few that have two from the state level to advance."

The schools that earn the top two slots at the state level will go on to represent Ohio at the national competition.

"When you go to the nationals, these kids are cheering for math and science," Jaster said. "It's amazing."

No matter how well the students do at the state competition, participating in the Science Olympiad is its own reward, Jaster said.

"Even if they don't become scientists or mathematicians," she said, "it's a great group for them to be a part of, and it highlights the ability of kids to learn."