About 2,000 in attendance.

With more people attending than in many of the towns represented, the 2018 STEM Olympiad was held on May 8 at Booneville Junior High School and the high school parking lot.

Organized by the Guy Fenter Education Service Cooperative and its staff, the Olympiad is set up to serve as a regional competition in science, technology, engineering and math. Sites are changed on a rotating basis with 2018 being the first of the two-year cycle for the Booneville school system to serve as host.

One of the largest events held in the Southwest, this year’s event attracted more than 2,000 participants and parents.

The Olympiad is set up much like a regional track meet. Students entered a chosen event for which they prepared at their home school. Students are called to participate in their event and age grouping throughout the day.

During the remainder of the time, students have the option of participating in educational activities sponsored by many diverse educational support or career groups. This year’ s group included Arkansas Tech university and its EMS van, educational booth from U/A Fort Smith STEM center, University of the Ozarks, Magazine Mountain State Park, Arkansas Geological Society, Arkansas Game and Fish, Arkansas National Guard, the Booneville library and others. Added excitement came from fun booths and a snow cone truck.

During the awards assembly, Kay Wortham of Magazine was announced as the Science Teacher of the Year for Western Arkansas and Mr. Don Simon, park interpreter for Magazine Mountain, was given the award for educational support member of the year.

Dr. Curtis Varnell said Wortham has been instrumental in the competition since its inception and has often produced winners in the people powered car division. She has also served as a judge

This years competition included people powered vehicles, catapults, egg buggy, bridge building, water purification, and robotics. Additionally, student and teacher groups were provided hands-on training in the use of Ozbot and other robotic programs.

GFESC provided 50 percent of the cost to purchase these robotic units that these groups can use at their home schools and teach other students the basics of computer programming.

STEM competition not only serves as an opportunity to apply science and engineering in real world situations, it allows kids with similar interest to interact, get excited about science and engineering, and to explore the many careers that are available in the field.

Directors for the competition were Dr. Curtis Varnell and Ms. Amber Cobb of GFESC, Garnetta Bonner, Josh Walker, and Georgia Littleton of Booneville.

Judges for the events included Ty Varnell of Paris, Wortham of Magazine, Jared Schluerman of Subiaco Academy, Eileen Freeman of St. Joseph’s, Janet Trusty of County Line and several Booneville school staff.

GFESC consists of 22 school districts, more than 50 schools, and over 35,000 students in a five county region.