Students from two Bradford County school districts and the Sullivan County School District are headed to Penn State Wilkes Barre today for the Northeast Regional Science Olympiad.

According to a press release from Penn State Wilkes Barre, the students from Athens High School, Harlan Rowe Junior High, Wyalusing High School and Sullivan County High School are among the 750 students from 52 schools in northeastern and central Pennsylvania competing in the competition. The students will be competing in events such as disease detective, egg-o-naut, junkyard challenge, and other events in the fields of anatomy, biology, chemistry, physics, problem solving, and technology, the release stated. Winners of both junior and senior high school divisions will advance to the state competition in April at Juniata College, according to the release.

At the Athens High School, students on the Science Olympiad team put a lot of time into the Science Olympiad and have been practicing since September, according to Coach Carli Yeager-Hall. Practices are held after school from Monday to Thursday every week, she said, though students come only to practice for the events in which they may compete. Of the 23 events in the Olympiad, individual students typically compete in three to four events, Yeager-Hall said, in teams of two or three students in each event.

Each year, the team has around 30 members, Yeager-Hall said, and has a coaching staff of around 10 people, mostly community members, who help them prepare for events. Since the Science Olympiad only allows 15 students to compete in each competition, the makeup of the team competing varies with each competition, she said, though all the students go to at least two competitions in the year.

In addition to traveling to other schools for competitions, the Athens High School hosts its own invitational tournament, Yeager-Hall said. While hosting the invitational is a lot of work for the parents and coaches of the team, it's very beneficial to the students to have a practice competition before regionals, she said, so they can practice the events and see them before hand.

This is the eighth year for the Science Olympiad in Athens, Yeager-Hall said. In the first year, she said, it was only 15 students and her coaching all 23 events, and since then has doubled in size and has a much larger coaching staff.

The Athens students have placed first at regionals for the past four years, she said, and hope to make it number five this year. Last year, the team finished fifth in the state competition, she said.

"We have a really good team this year with a lot of very strong students," Yeager-Hall said. Placing in the top two at the state competition and earning a chance to go to national competition at the University of Illinois is "very much within their reach," she said.

The Wyalusing High School team is excited to go to regionals, said their coach, Scott Myer. Myer said this is the third year he's been coaching the team after reviving the team in Wyalusing after a few years when the school didn't have a team. They've improved every year, he said, with a 23rd place finish at regionals their first year and a 16th place finish last year. This year, they are hoping to make it to the state tournament, he said.

This year was the first year the Wyalusing team went to the Athens invitational, Myer said, and the experience was "definitely a help."

"It's like anything else, if you want to get better you have to compete against the best," Myer said.

For students interested in pursuing science as a career, he said, the Science Olympiad offers them a chance to see some real-world applications and presents a challenge to top science students. The Science Olympiad gives students a chance to really study a discipline in detail and be that much better off when deciding what they really want to do in college, Myer said.

The competition also challenges students to work together, Myer said, and builds teamwork and organizational skills as well as knowledge of science. For some events, the students can bring notes, and it takes a lot of practical skills to gather and compile those notes so they can be useful in the events.

The Wyalusing students spend a lot of their own time, after school and during homeroom sessions, preparing for the event, he said.

Brian Bishop can be reached at (570) 888-9652; or e-mail: bbishop@thedailyreview.com.