The Guy Fenter Education Service Cooperative and the University of the Ozarks team up each year to provide second through fourth grade students the opportunity to participate in a Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math competition.
The STEM Olympiad is the only one of its kind in the state which allows young elementary students the opportunity to demonstrate their engineering skills and expertise in diverse fields of science and math.
Composed of teams of two to four students, students design and program robots, develop bridges that will withstand extreme conditions, design rollercoasters that will speed up or slow down according to circumstances, or program ozbot to move around a hypothetical community.
Students participating in these activities practice the science and engineering in the classroom and prepare an engineering solution after the arrive on site. Other students work in groups to think through a math and science scenario handed to them after they get to the competition.
Experts in computer, physics, bridge design, and math engage and teach the students prior to the competition and then the students have one hour to design a solution that works best for their completion area. Top scoring groups are awarded medals for first, second, and third place groups.
In its sixth year, Elementary STEM Olympiad has grown so much that schools are restricted in the number of teams that can enter, yet, nearly 600 area students show up at the competition each year.
Each year, area teachers select the regional STEM teacher of the Year and the regional STEM volunteer from teachers in western Arkansas. Kim Cook of Scranton was selected as teacher and Dr. Javier Taylor as volunteer for 2019.
Area schools participating include Hackett, Scranton, Clarksville, Lamar, West-Side, Ozark, Paris, Magazine, County Line, Booneville, and Mansfield.
Directors and organizers for the STEM Olympiad are Amber Cobb and Dr. Curtis Varnell of GFESC and Dr Javier Taylor of the University of the Ozarks.