How Science Olympiad Launches Kids into Meaningful Careers


Colin Barber sees big things in very small things. A microbiologist at UC-Berkeley, Colin first became enamored with his particular scientific field in high school.

“Science Olympiad introduced me to the academic love of my life: microbiology,” he said. “When I was a sophomore in high school, I competed in Microbe Mission, an event focused entirely on the fundamentals of microbiology, from cell structure through basic taxonomy. It’s convenient to think that we command our world, but for the past four billion or so years, microbes have run the planet – and still do. Without Science Olympiad, however, I may not have discovered what has come to be my life’s work.”

He can very clearly lay out the three major things he learned from his years of participation:

1) I will always be a teammate

(2) being a teammate means self-sacrifice in service of something greater than myself, and 

(3) I am indescribably lucky to have such wonderful teachers and mentors in my life.

Colin spoke in depth about his passion for Science Olympiad to the 2019 Science Olympiad National Tournament held at Cornell, his undergraduate alma mater. He’s an inspirational ambassador for not only the Science Olympiad community, but of the scientific community as a whole. His passion has carried him to places he never even imagined.

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The good old days with Science Olympiad

True to form, Colin deploys a science-specific analogy to explain what Science Olympiad has done for him: NASA’s Voyager program.

NASA launched Voyager I and II in the 1970s. Voyager I is now the furthest man-made object our species has launched into space. It’s beyond even the confines of our solar system, this small corner of infinite cosmos we call home. Every moment these probes drift farther into the unknown.

However, even such cunning examples of engineering require some extra push. Just like Colin and the many other children in Science Olympiad.

competition 1“To get so far,” he said, “the Voyager probes needed some help. Both of them used a maneuver called a “gravity assist,” also referred to as a “slingshot,” by using Jupiter’s and Saturn’s gravity wells to accelerate. Without these carefully-executed maneuvers, neither probe would have been able to escape the solar system. Science Olympiad is my Jupiter and Saturn.”

“Although I had launched by the time I joined my middle school team, it was Science Olympiad that propelled me to places I wouldn’t have been able to reach otherwise. As I drift beyond the boundaries of human knowledge, I look back as often as I can on the places and people that had a hand in accelerating me forward.”

“But there’s a point at which the metaphor breaks down: Science Olympiad hasn’t produced just a Voyager 1 or 2, but Voyager hundred thousand-something,” Colin said. “The number of times Science Olympiad has helped students achieve escape velocity literally can’t be counted. That’s the beauty of Science Olympiad.”

This beauty is exactly why Double Good is working with Science Olympiad to help roll out new programs, fund teams, and make good on the promise of a better world. 

If we can conquer outer space then we can definitely do whatever we can to help kids like Colin Barber. It’s the least we can do, in fact, because kids like Colin Barber are making this world a better place every single day, through science. 


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