Orangeburg Technology Center Students finish strong at National Science Bowl

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Budding scientists and engineers from the Orangeburg Consolidated School District Five Technology Center put their knowledge of biology, chemistry and astronomy to the test at the 38th annual meeting of the National Organization for the Professional Advancement of Black Chemists and Chemical Engineers’ (NOBCChE) Science Bowl, held in Houston, TX from April 19-22.

In its first time entering the competition, Team Visionaries, which comprises the Technology Center’s Project Lead the Way Pre-Engineering students, placed fifth in the senior division round robin competition, out of 23 rival teams that came from as far as New York, Michigan, Delaware and Pennsylvania.

Saginaw Arts and Sciences Academy from Saginaw, Mich. won first place in both the junior and senior divisions. White Pine Middle School, also from Saginaw, and Timbuktu Academy from Baton Rouge, La. won second place in the junior and senior divisions, respectively.

SC State University’s Massie Chair Program and the 1890 Research & Extension Program provided support in the form of quiz preparation, team apparel and also sponsored the trip for the ten competing students along with two of their teachers and coach.

“The Massie Chair Program and the 1890 Research & Extension Program were delighted to support this educational experience for Orangeburg Technology Center students,” said Dr. G. Dale Wesson, recipient of the prestigious Massie Chair and vice president for the Division of Research, Economic Development and Public Service.  “SC State, including the 1890 Program, has a long-standing relationship with the school. We were honored to continue supporting academic enrichment opportunities for the students, particularly opportunities that inspire youth toward science, technology, engineering and mathematic fields,” continued Wesson, who is also executive director of the 1890 Program.

Phyllis Pelzer, a pre-engineering teacher at the Center and a licensed engineer, said competitions like these helps her to encourage students to enjoy math and science.“I know that the United States is falling behind in the STEM areas,” she said. “I want my students to see math and science not just as a subject they have to pass, but as something they love.” 

Pelzer, who also serves as the team’s advisor, said she was very pleased with her students’ performance. “I thought they did very well,” she said. “Given the fact that this was our first time entering the competition and we only had a few months to prepare, I think our students did a great job.”

The mission of the NOBCChE is to build an eminent cadre of scientists and engineers by increasing the number of African American and other ethnic minorities in these fields. One significant purpose of the NOBCChE Science Bowl and Science Fair is to foster professional development and encourage ethnic diversity among students pursuing careers in science and technical fields.

The competition was part of a larger conference which brought together 127 middle and high school students to compete in poster competitions, which showcased independent research projects, and participate in a career and college fair.

Among the universities present at the event were Clemson University, Morehouse School of Medicine, Purdue University and The John Hopkins University. Students also had a chance to view exhibits and speak to representatives from companies like Dow Chemical Company, Colgate-Palmolive Company and Proctor and Gamble.

Dr. Shawn Austin, the post-doctorate research associate for the Massie Chair Program, served as one of the team coaches. He said sponsoring students in these activities is not only important to the development of the workforce in the United States but also to the development of tomorrow’s future leaders so they can succeed in any environment.

“These students are the best of the best,” he said. “Competitions like these will keep our future scientists and engineers motivated to further their education in STEM related fields.”

Pre-engineering student Deondre Glover, senior and salutatorian at Orangeburg-Wilkinson High School who competed in the quiz bowl, said he thoroughly enjoyed the experience.

“The conference was very unique,” he said. “I have never had that type of exposure before.”

Glover will be attending SC State this fall as a U.S. Department of Agriculture/1890 Scholar. He will major in civil engineering.

For more on the engineering program at the Orangeburg Technology Center, contact Phyllis Pelzer at 803-536-4473 or Contact Dr. G. Dale Wesson at (803) 516-4990 or for details on 1890 Research & Extension or the Massie Chair Program.