The University of Wisconsin will host the National Science Olympiad Tournament for the first time in May 2011, a prestigious competition which will draw participants from across the U.S. to the campus’ newest facilities.

The 27th annual national competition for nearly 6,000 middle and high school students, educators and families from across the country will be held on the UW campus from May 18-21, a statement from UW said.

The tournament will bring together more than 120 regional championship middle school and high school teams from all 50 states that have advanced from the state-level Science Olympiad competitions taking place this spring, the statement said.

Nicole Hanutke, Science Olympiad state committee coordinator, said the top scoring team from each state will compete in Madison, with a few exceptional states bringing two winning teams.

According to the statement, students will compete in more than 46 different individual and team events in science, technology, engineering and math fields over the course of the competition.

Van Valaskey, co-director of the tournament, said UW has hosted Wisconsin Science Olympiad state tournaments every other year since 2003, but this is the first time the university has hosted the national tournament.

Valaskey said the tournament will commence with a public opening ceremony at the Kohl Center featuring a parade of state teams, performances from the UW marching band and other programs, including a science magic show.

He said the remainder of the tournament’s events will showcase the university’s two newest buildings, Union South and the Wisconsin Institutes for Discovery.

Hanutke said prizes for the winning teams and individuals in each category often vary depending on the university holding the tournament each year.

Previous universities to host the events have offered gold medal winning students full scholarships to their university if they apply and are accepted to the institution, she said.

Other prizes for winning teams have included trips to science and math related institutions, including the NASA Space Center, Hanutke added. 

Exhibition events are scheduled for visiting members of the public throughout the competition, including campus science workshops, campus tours, field trips and tours of regional sites, Valaskey said.

He added the university, regional science colleges and local businesses have all made contributions to the $500,000 budget the tournament requires.

“There has been wide-spread support from throughout the campus and community to make this tournament happen,” Valaskey said.

He also noted the biggest benefit for UW in hosting the tournament is increased exposure for participating students to all that the university has to offer and the competition will hopefully recruit students to attend Madison to further their science, math and engineering education.

Students competing in this prestigious tournament will also individually receive exposure from recruiters at the university and hopefully gain understanding of a variety of career choices from scientists and mentors participating in the competition, the statement said.

Hanutke said an important aspect of the competition is allowing students to work together in team-building activities that strengthen an academic group mentality.

“Students will expand their interests in academic areas that they have grown up enjoying through this experience,” Hanutke said. “They will have the opportunity to excel in math, science, engineering and technological careers in the future.”