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Kristin Murphy, Kristin Murphy, Deseret News
Alexis Metcalf watches as Nata Choi peddles a bicycle that generates electricity during the Science Olympiad.

SALT LAKE CITY — The students holding pipettes in Paul Hooker's chemistry lab were a bit younger than usual Saturday.

The Westminster College professor said he was "overwhelmed" by the quality of the middle school and high school students who descended on the campus for the first annual regional Science Olympiad.

Nearly 400 students from 25 schools competed in 13 events in preparation for the state Science Olympiad, to be held March 26 at Weber State University.

Anyone can participate in the state competition this year, but in the future, the regional will be a qualifying event, said organizer Jaimi Butler, the coordinator of Westminster's Great Salt Lake Institute.

With students launching rockets, building musical instruments and flying remote helicopters they built themselves, it was a chance for the college to show off its $30 million Meldrum Science Center, which opened in September.

"This building is perfect for this," Butler said.

In other events, students constructed catapults, examined mock crime scenes like forensic scientists and tested their knowledge of ornithology with live birds from the Tracy Aviary.

The idea, Butler said, is to give kids hands-on experience in a real college lab so they can see what their future workplace might look like.

Many students brought their own equipment, but Westminster chipped in to provide materials to schools that could not afford their own.

e-mail: pkoepp@desnews.com

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