A fifth-grade teacher at Beacon Elementary School watched with pride as students from across the district were recognized for their efforts to learn about trajectories.

A fifth-grade teacher at Beacon Elementary School watched with pride as students from across the district were recognized for their efforts to learn about trajectories.

Students built catapults designed to shoot Ping-Pong and tennis balls from two to about eight meters away with accuracy through Science Olympiad.

"Sometimes I get very nervous with the catapults," said Joe Salamony, who works as a coach for the event. "They are so powerful they could do harm. It is so humorous to watch. We have catapults that shoot 10 meters, but they are only six to eight inches long. We have four- or five-foot catapults that do the same."

Salamony, who got his start with the science-based activity during his first year in education, served as coach and host for the school and district event.

All other schools in the district, who elected to participate in the events on March 17, came to Salamony, the designated captain, with questions.

"After 23 years, I have it down to a science," he said, explaining that coaches from the other schools helped with scoring on the night of the big event. Therefore, he is free to also serve as host.

Residents took up seats erected on the stage in the gymnasium, or on the steps leading to the stage, to observe the competing teams.

"It has a stadium effect," said Salamony. "The students in the 'After School' program love to come and watch and cheer on the team."

While Salamony milled around the gym, watching the catapult teams, down the hall in the cafeteria another collection of students participated in the egg-drop event.

In that particular activity, a raw egg is dropped more than 10 feet to see if a parachute is designed well enough to keep it from breaking.

Salamony said that the hands-on experiences of Science Olympiad are as educational, if not more so, than reading about science in a textbook. "They have to use lots of science-process skills, like observation, data collection and measuring and analyze the data to be more accurate when the pressure is on," he said.

He often wished he could have participated in similar events when he was a student.

As he looks back over more than two decades, Salamony said, being coerced into coaching the catapult event of Science Olympiad during his first year in education was a positive experience.

"I'm glad I did it," he said. "It is a great experience to have time with the kids after school. It is a more relaxed, informal time with the students."

This year, Beacon had 10 teams in the competition, involving about 20 students, but he learned while talking with some of the other coaches that they had nearly 20 teams.

The schools that were enrolled had good participation, according to Salamony.

In recent years, he said, they are seeing less participation in some of the Science Olympiad activities. Salamony attributed the loss to teachers being stretched too thin to encourage participation.

"We are realizing some of the activities are not drawing an interest and we are weeding out activities," he said.

The catapult activities are still fun for Salamony and his students.

"This year our winning catapult, I told the parents, that was one that could have won an award for modern art," he said. "The winning catapult had weights on it and it looked like a work out machine."

Scioto Darby Elementary School had the winning team at the district level. It consisted of Mikayla Miller and Samantha Nadler.

A second-place tie was held between Ridgewood Elementary School and Hilliard Crossing Elementary School. The winners were Grant Halloway, representing Ridgewood, and Michael Wait and Grant Merz, serving as the team for Crossing.

Third place went to Daniel Butchko and Eryn Henderson of Alton Darby Elementary School.

Salamony was thankful for a fourth-place victory that went to his Beacon students, Maddie Wintrich and Samantha Buchanan.

Following the event, he said, he was neither relieved nor disappointed. "I guess I'm satisfied to see something work its course," he said.

In the beginning, when the students set to work on their designs and construction in January, the catapults frequently fell apart. It is up to the youngsters to get the machine working and ready to shoot again.

"It is the satisfaction of seeing the perseverance of students through a lot of obstacles to get catapults to successfully shoot the distances," he said at the close of the event.