LSU College of Engineering professors recently gave students at Glasgow Middle School in Baton Rouge the opportunity to work in their labs in preparation for the next Science Olympiad national tournament.

Glasgow had one team in Division B (grades six to eight) this year and jumped from 48 to 32 in the rankings, according to a news release.

Serving as an interdisciplinary support group for the students were LSU biological engineering professors Philip Jung and Yongchan Kwon and construction management professor Yongcheol Lee, all of whom invited 20 Science Olympiad team members and teachers to their labs to help them prepare for the competition.

“LSU’s College of Engineering has an excellent history of support for future engineers through prestigious outreach programs,” Jung said. “I wondered if the GMS team was supported with the resources available at LSU to compete with advanced knowledge and bring a better outcome than last year.”

One of the highest demands from the students and teachers was computer simulation and biotechnology skills. Using the MMR Building Information Modeling, or BIM, Cave in Patrick F. Taylor Hall, Lee demonstrated how the cave can be incorporated into architecture and construction management research studies. He also showed the students how building information modeling has been used to improve current architectural designs and construction processes, including automated design validation, 3-D facility modeling, 4-D visualization, and smart building.

“The students can now get more information about the existing research studies in these domains and raise their own ideas for the Olympiad competition,” Lee said.

Kwon introduced the students to his cell-free synthetic biology lab and its high-end equipment. Kwon and his doctoral student, Caroline Copeland, also gave a short lecture on recombinant DNA technology, polymerase chain reaction, and DNA purification and visualization.

Jung, who coordinated this program with GMS teachers Madelon Kelly and Kelly McFatter, looks forward to working with the students year-round to help them prepare for the national competition.

“As a parent, I saw how disciplined the team was, practicing each event every week,” Jung said. “They meet at least once a week after school and once on the weekend at a local library. Individual teams were gathered to practice their subjects whenever they needed to. Even though they were in different grades, students were very enthusiastic and eager to practice each event through multiple semesters. In addition, many parents voluntarily supported the team financially and intellectually.”

Jung said the majority of the financial support came from parents, fundraising and donations. Until recently, GMS did not have a lab microscope and students had to run experiments without personal protection equipment.

The next Science Olympiad will take place at North Carolina State University in the summer of 2020.