Saturday, April 3, 1999

Students aim
at science
first for isles

But they need cash to take
their idea for a better mousetrap
to a national contest in May

By Crystal Kua


What do Ping-Pong balls, 5 million clean cars and a self-described high school science geek have in common?

The answer: a national science competition that could see a team from Hawaii for the first time -- if the students and their coach can muster up enough money in three weeks to make the trip.

Roosevelt High School senior Chad Kishimoto said he's willing to do just about anything to raise enough money to attend the 15th annual National Science Olympiad in May at the University of Chicago.

He and fellow "science geek" teammates have conceived an idea, somewhat difficult to explain, of building a better mousetrap using Ping-Pong balls.

"I'll wash 5 million cars," he said. "I'll wash every car on the island two times."

Roosevelt received an invitation to the tourney in mid-March.

Organizers said teams normally enter the olympiad via a regional or state qualifying contest that precedes the national competition.

But Hawaii has none.

So Roosevelt students contacted competition officials.

The organizers were so impressed with the students' initiative that they invited the team to take part in the competition, making Roosevelt the first team to officially represent Hawaii in the contest, science olympiad Executive Administrator Sharon Putz said by telephone from Michigan.

"We're looking forward to them coming to Chicago," Putz said.

Putz said it's also hoped the exposure the team receives will lead to Hawaii organizing a local qualifying contest.

But the team needs to get to the competition first.

The seven seniors and three juniors, along with coach Prisca Lee, need to raise a total of $10,000 before the end of the month.

"I was very worried about the money," Lee said. "(The students) are telling me every day that it's possible."

Kishimoto said the trip rests on the group's ability to raise enough money through washing cars, selling candy and other ways.

"I wanted to compete nationally, and everyone here is avid about science," he said.

The team is also hoping to find a business or organization that would help sponsor the team to defray costs, Kishimoto said.

Students aren't able to dip into their pockets for the trip because most of them are heading to college next year and money is tight, he said.

For more information, contact members of the team or Lee at Roosevelt High School at 587-4600.

The National Science Olympiad involves 23 events from different fields of science.

Lee, a chemistry teacher at Roosevelt, said this competition is different from most because it's more than just answering science questions. "This is more like hands-on stuff and you compete with other teams."

Kishimoto, an astronomy buff, also will be competing in a category that involves identifying constellations and other other celestial bodies and calculating the brightness or age of stars.

Roosevelt placed second in the Hawaii Science Bowl, and that gave students the bug to compete in other science contests, he said.

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