Cardozo shines in science contest

Jenny Yu (l.) and Richard Xia demonstrate their helicopter design after classes at Benjamin Cardozo High School as the school's team prepares for the finals round of the state Science Olympiad competition. Photo by Rich Bockmann
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The brightest young scientific minds at Benjamin Cardozo High School were busy at work last week preparing for the final round of the New York State Science Olympiad after beating out some notable competition a few days earlier.

Students from the Bayside school took second place in the competition’s regional round Feb. 4 at Grover Cleveland High School in Ridgewood, edging out teams from some high-profile schools like the Bronx High School of Science, Townsend Harris High School, Archbishop Molloy High School, the Dalton School and about 30 other competitive schools.

“They worked very hard,” physics and physical science research teacher Mark Siega, the team’s head coach, said one day after classes had ended, which is when the Olympiad team meets each day. “The students stay as long as I stay. They’re really competitive, and a big thing is that they’re doing this on top of all their other schoolwork.”

The students spend all year practicing for the competition in which pairs of two students from each team compete against others in about 20 different events, which have study and building components.

“I really like the team spirit,” said senior David Xu, one of the team’s captains. “It’s like one big family experience. The result really doesn’t matter.”

One event required students to build a helicopter out of pieces of wood, paper and a rubber band.

“You had to consider the angle of the blades, and choose materials as light as possible to counteract the gravitational force,” said Jenny Yu, the team’s other captain.

The senior said Cardozo’s helicopter flew for about 39 seconds — during which time it made an impressive recovery after dropping to about 2 feet off the floor — vs. the winning team’s time of about 1:20.

“I just like to see it fly, she said. Every team had the same design, but we made our own.”

The team of Sarah Kang and Marcus Choy took second place in the magnetic levitation event, which required the students to use magnets to propel a miniature levitated car down a track, and then answer questions about the history of magnets.

“They originated in China. They basically used it as a compass. They’d thin out a piece of magnet as a pin and stick it through a bamboo shoot. Then they’d fill a bowl with water and put the bamboo stick in,” Choy explained.

“I’m really into magnets,” he said, which drew a round of laughter from his friends.

The students said they each start out practicing for events based on their strengths and areas of expertise, but they also get to experiment in new fields.

“You find out that you’re good at other stuff you’d never know,” said senior Christian Uruburo, who added that most of the team members are already carrying a heavy load of about three or four Advanced Placement classes.

Cardozo sent two teams of 15 students each to the regional round, and of those 30 students 15 will be selected to compete in the state round in Buffalo March 30 and 31. The team will join four others from the metropolitan region, including Stuyvesant High School.

“The smartest people in public school can compete with the smartest people in the specialized schools,” Yu said. “We’re proud of being in Cardozo.”

Reach reporter Rich Bockmann by e-mail at or by phone at 718-260-4574.

Posted 12:14 am, February 16, 2012
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