The Guy Fenter Education Service Cooperative and the Arkansas NASA Space Consortium will host the regional Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) competition for western Arkansas in Paris Friday. The event will bring thousands of students and teachers to Paris.

In its eighth year, the Science Olympiad attracts some of the top students from around the state to this annual event. The competition will be held at Paris High school from 9 a.m. until 2 p.m.

Students in grades five through 12 will compete in seven events including catapults, people powered vehicles, egg buggy, bridge building, water purification, and windmill construction. Additionally, this year, schools will bring teams to participate in a new Science Challenge competition and robotics.

Robotics teams will compete in various challenges using robots they have constructed from kits. In Science Challenge, the school group will be presented a real world problem after they arrive at the competition. The group will then be given one hour to devise a solution to the problem.

Science Olympiad is set up much like a regional track meet. Students will be called to participate in their event and age grouping throughout the day. During the remainder of time, students will have the option of participating in educational activities such as geocasting, robotics, or visits to booths set up by colleges, Arkansas Game and Fish, Forestry, Arkansas geological commission and others. Arkansas Tech University will have a large blow-up planetarium available for student groups as well.

Science Olympiad also includes many fun activities for kids and adults including laser tag, bounce-a-rounds, and sports games. An entertainment stage offering karoke and kid musical groups will be manned by announcer and disco jockey, Kevin Conkin.

Named the outstanding STEM competition for the Southwest region, STEM Olympiad attracted more than 3,000 participants two years ago and a comparable crowd is expected this year. The stage and many of the activities will be located in the large parking area between the football field and the gym at Paris High school.

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 are Dr. Curtis Varnell and Amber Cobb of Guy Fenter Coop; Jennifer Owen, June Gilbreath and Ty Varnell of Paris; Cindy Bunch of Arkansas Tech University; Jared Schluterman of Subiaco Academy; Eileen Freemen of St. Joseph’s Catholic School; Janet Trusty of County Line School District; Garnetta Bonner and Georgia Littleton of Booneville; and Kay Wortham of Magazine.