Science Olympiad, TSA, and VEX

Tancey Li, Manager of Arts and Entertainment

Science Olympiad, VEX, and TSA are all extracurricular academic clubs. I got the opportunity to interview one person from each club to get an inside view of it. I believe that these three clubs don’t get the recognition that they deserve. 

I first interviewed Leander Speer-Zisook from VEX Robotics to get his inside scoop. Here’s how the interview went: 

Tancey Li: Please state your name and your main role in VEX.

Leo: Leo Speer-Zisook, Main programmer.

T: What is VEX? 

L: VEX is a competition where teams have a limited amount of time to build a robot that completes tasks that are a game. There are a bunch of rewards that you can win like excellence, best robot, best design, a Judges reward which is the judges personal favorite, creative rewards which is the best design process, and one for the notebook which is a document that logs what everything, ect. Point of vex is a standardized game and a standardized material that you can use, but you can use any coding and time management matters a lot. 

T: What made you want to join VEX?

L: My brother did it in high school and he talked about it a couple times and I thought it would be interesting. So, I went to the interest meeting and that’s where my journey began.

T; What are some things you do during VEX? 

L: Since I’m the programmer, I sometimes help with documenting, which is mainly Andrew Feng’s job or I just do programming which I can’t do all the time since I need the robot. Programming is all about trial and error so you have to figure out what you got wrong and do it over and over again, it’s very time consuming. 

T: What are some challenges that can happen during your practice sessions? 

L: Sometimes a team member can have a different idea on what to do with the robot and the kinds of things you do with the robot but since the teams are a lot smaller if you have a good relationship with your team it’s not too hard to reduce arguments. Since teams are smaller it’s a lot easier to not get into arguments. 

T: Do you find it hard when there are conflicts in VEX? 

L: Like I said before, there are some conflicts, but when it is hard it is possible to get through it. It is [still]  difficult when you have a disagreement but it’s way easier to avoid. The thing you want to avoid is attacking each other, you want to talk about the actual thing. It is the driving issue in vex and learning how to deal with conflicts is a big deal. 

T: Last year, you guys went to Worlds which was amazing news and got to go to Texas! What was your initial reaction with being able to go?

L: I was very excited. Mr. V’soske, our coach last year, actually got the whole VEX team to come to the former Waterbound room and he got the announcement lady to say that the VEX team qualified for going to Worlds. It was kind of anti-climatic, it was cool but we kinda just sat there in shock cause it was weird. It was very strange. 

T: In this case, how do you feel about this year’s team? Do you think you can still do as well as you did last year? 

L: No, we got insanely lucky last year. Luckier than any other team would ever get. We got into worlds by a fluke. We shouldn’t have gotten in but we did. We worked hard last year and we’re working hard this year. We know we will work hard on the robot this year. 

T: I heard that you guys went to a competition a few weeks ago, did you have fun or was it stressful? 

L: It was fun and stressful. It was fun to be around the Blackrock Teams and the other WV teams. But yet again it is a whole day of constant competitions. But it was fun when we were competing with Black Rock (Former WV Students) cause the Blackrock and WV teams are pretty much combined. We have friendly competitions. It was fun to cheer them on! 

T: What was the outcome of the competition?

L: The One Black Rock team won the entire Competition. Which is very exciting for them. But it is very unfortunate that they qualified for US pen, because apparently Mr. V’soke said they couldn’t go cause they either didn’t have enough money, students, or teachers to go.


T: How did you feel about your outcome in the competition? 

L: We made it to the Semi- Finals, which is very good. We did better than our first competition last year. While we were playing we technically beat the number 1 VEX team in PA and highest teams in the World cause they got disqualified. Teammate messed up.  I think we did pretty well. There will be more competition in the future, there is one on Saturday or Sunday at Black Rock. 

T: Do you think VEX is better than TSA and Science Olympiad? 

L: Yes, TSA and Science Olympiad are not even close. TSA is a joke, fake club. Made up by the gov. In the Science Olympiad, Paavo Toikka is in it so it’s not good, Ethan Hsu isn’t in it, and Science Olympiad seems more studying and the materials that they use are not standardized. Heard that Someone searches on Amazon for the right material while at VEX they have the right materials for everything. Community in VEX is a lot smaller while TSA is very big which makes VEX a better place to be in. 

Thank you for taking the time to take the interview! It’s always interesting to see how kids in a club feel about what they do. Next, I interviewed a kid in TSA to get their inside scoop. Here’s how it went: 

T: State your name and your role in TSA 

Max: Maximillian Xavier Niescor, TSA Officer.

T: Please give a short summary of what TSA is. 

M: TSA is a STEM base program for students and allows them to compete around the country in a variety of topics. 

T: What made you want to join TSA? 

M: I heard a lot of good things about the TSA. So, I went to the first meeting in 7th grade including Ethan Hsu and it just sort of clicked and all the stuff available grew and the creative interest grew and thrived. 

T: What are some events that are in the TSA? 


M: Some of these events include; testing, building, or even jeopardy style competitions. In Testing events there are Electrical applications where students are asked about Electrical components and assemble their own circuit based on blueprints. In Coding there is an event where students must code their own game based on the requirements. In a building event you have to build your own robot. For Jeopardy Style, there is only one event called Tech Bowl where students are asked about all technology related questions and must hit the buzzer as fast as they can to answer said questions. 

T: What are some things that you guys do during practice? 

M: Most of the time we’re building events and planning, and deciding what we need to get by and how we should get it done. Recently came back from regionals and a whole bunch of new events opened up. Congratulations to those who made it to the States. 

T: What are some challenges that can happen during TSA? 

M: Getting your fingers glued together. Especially when your machine stops working. If you’re making your robot your robot could stop working then you have to go through the entire code and circuit. Lots of Trial and error until you get it right. 

T: Last year, you guys went to a competition Dallass, Texas at some fancy hotel during the summer with your president, Leevi Toikka. How did you feel the night before you left for the competition? 

M: I would say tired because you stay up till 1 am and get up at 5 am to get to the airplane. However, I felt a bit nervous but excited and if I didn’t place it would still be a trip to Texas, new experiences. 

T: Were you happy with your results last year or do you wish that you could’ve done better? 

M: I was happy with the results last year being a new member to TSA. I had a lot of fun on the way but I am always striving to improve my score. 

T: How do you feel about this year’s team? Do you think you can still be like last year’s team? 

M: A lot of the members returned and I think it’s gonna be like last year’s team, but the past 8th graders that moved on to high school will not be the same without them. It’s an energetic group and they are all enthusiastic about TSA and they try to strive for accuracy. 

T: How do you feel about your performance this year? 

M: I would say that my performance has doubled since last year and I am taking the position of helping new members complete when they need to be done, and I have the knowledge to improve and I have learned from past mistakes. TO improve THEA the knowledge of past mistakes. 

T: Do you think TSA is better than Vex and Science Olympiad? 

M: I would say yes, it is better than Vex in the overall because TSA includes Vex Formevents and Vex originated from TSA and broke off into its own thing. We still have Vex events at TSA competitions. On the other front, the Science Olympiad offers more opportunities in high school such as going to NASA but it really depends on the type of person. 

Thank you Max for taking the time to take the interview. Again, it’s really interesting to hear about these kinds of things. Finally, I interviewed someone in the Science Olympiad to see how they are. Here is the overview of the interview: 

T: State your name and what events you do in the Science Olympiad.

J:  I’m Jonah Brown and I am a 7th grader competing in Meteorology, Experimental Design, and Can’t Judge A Powder.

T: Give a short summary of what ‘Science Olympiad’ is.

J: Science Olympiad is a competitive science competition where students from different schools participate in different kinds of events. Some events involve building things to accomplish a task while others involve testing your knowledge on topics or completing hands-on labs.

T: What made you want to do SicOly (Science Olympiad)?

J: I wanted to do ‘Science Olympiad’ because I love everything science-related. It was originally recommended to me by my brother (now in 10th grade) who competed for Welsh Valley also.

T: Is it stressful, fun, or annoying to be in SciOly? 

J: SciOly is all of the above. Studying for events can be annoying sometimes. The days before the competition are certainly stressful. But it is all worth it for the fun of the competitions.

T: Last year, the Science Olympiad team went to the States, how did you feel the night before the competition? 

J: The night before the competition was nerve wracking, but also so much fun. Besides a little bit of studying, the whole team gathered to play games and hangout before the competition the next day. Science Olympiad has a great social environment, especially in the weeks close to the competitions.

T: Were you happy with your results last year or do you wish you could’ve done better?

J:  Last year I participated in two events: Meteorology and Food Science. In terms of Meteorology, I felt we slightly underperformed. We did not place (receive medals) at Regionals, and were one place off of getting a medal at States. On the other hand, Food Science went super well. We placed at both competitions, even with a very difficult test at States. 

T: How do you feel about this year’s team? 

J: I think that this year’s team is very strong, although maybe slightly under expectations for the amount of people on the team. Even with the limitation of our size, we have been able to cover all events, and I think we will perform well at our upcoming competitions. I am slightly concerned about the future of WV SciOly since we currently have only 7th and 8th graders on our team. I fear that we will not have enough people next year as I don’t expect many 6th and 7th graders to join.

T: Since you guys are going to Invitationals on February 11, 2023, how do you feel about your events?

J: I feel pretty good about my events. Considering that Invitationals is, in a way, a practice competition, I am pretty happy with where I am at. 

T: How do you feel about the community that you have at the WV SciOly team? 

J: Science Olympiad’s community is one of the best parts. Not only does everyone on the team mutually support each other, but we can also have fun while we’re at it. The atmosphere at competitions makes something that seems dreadful actually very fun.

T: Do you think SciOly is better than Vex and TSA? 

J: Yes.

Well, you heard it here by these three students. In my opinion, I don’t think these three clubs get the recognition they deserve. Everyone works really hard and tries their very best. Which club do you think is the best and which one do you want to join?