AFA’s Salt Lake City Chapter Supports Science Olympiad 

March 26, 2024   |   By Laurie Orth

Every year, Fran Bradshaw, AFA’s Utah State and Salt Lake City Chapter VP of Aerospace Education, leads AFA Utah’s role in the state finals of the Utah Science Olympiad (UTSO). Hundreds of middle and high school students participate in UTSO, a weekend of science competitions—an event ripe for AFA volunteers to support community educational programs while also meeting potential STEM teachers for AFA’s Teacher of the Year program. 

Founded in 1984, Science Olympiad is a national STEM competition that provides standards-based challenges each year for thousands of teams throughout the country. The program is dedicated to improving the quality of science education and increasing student interest in STEM in two grade categories: elementary and middle/high school. It is a great opportunity for students to apply their classroom learning in a fun and exciting way.

Bradshaw organizes AFA’s contributions to the event, from event planning to volunteer coordination. She works with the UTSO sponsoring organization, Southern Utah University in Cedar City, Utah, to bring engaging aerospace-related STEM activities to the competition—AFA frequently provides events to UTSO like building and flying balsa wood airplanes, and building and launching rockets using trajectory calculations.

Bradshaw also rallies volunteers from the southern Utah USAF veteran community and local college students, who support the competition as timekeepers, judges, and support staff.

AFA Utah awards cash prizes to winning student teams, which can be applied toward STEM supplies for the following year’s tournament to inspire continued STEM education over the next school year.

Overall state winners at UTSO advance on to the World’s Science Olympiad Competition. The possibilities at the next level involve large prizes and scholarships for the winning teams and individual students. 

The 2024 UTSO state competition launches April 6. As AFA chapters across the country continue to search for avenues to connect with and support teachers and students, the Science Olympiad program is an excellent opportunity to become involved in STEM education mentoring. 

Learn more about Science Olympiad here

About the author: Laurie Orth is an AFA Emerging Leader and the East Georgia AFA Chapter President. She is a Music and STEAM Educator at the Jessye Norman School of the Arts in Augusta, Ga.