Making Bedroom Slippers Sing

Raw eggs arced through the air, "pasta mobiles" shot down steep ramps, and musical instruments made of PVC pipe, plywood, and bedroom slippers honked church hymns in the 26th annual Los Angeles Regional Science Olympiad held at Occidental College on Feb. 25.


Akin to an academic track meet, the annual Science Olympiad features 60 events in three divisions: elementary, middle and high school. About 2,000 students from 130 schools competed in events that required not just knowledge, but critical thinking and problem-solving skills.

Events include designing a mousetrap, analyzing satellite images and inventing and playing a musical instrument. About 150 Occidental and Caltech professors and students, naturalists from the Los Angeles County Outdoor Science School and other local science educators judged the competition. This is the second year in a row that the College has hosted the K-12 science, engineering and technology competition.

Bruno Louchouarn, adjunct associate professor of digital media and director of Occidental's Keck Language and Culture Studio, judged the "Sounds of Music" event. Students had to design and build a musical instrument from scratch and perform two pieces on the instrument: The first was a hymn and the second, a piece composed by the students themselves. The instruments ranged from water-filled glass beer bottles to a violin made out of plywood and a beautifully designed ukulele that looked anything but homemade.

This event is like a decathlon," he said. "It really integrates physics and [engineering], as well as the musicality and math of music."

Preliminary results are available here. Winners advance to battle another day at the Southern California Science Olympiad at Anaheim's Canyon High School on April 14. For photos and news coverage of the Los Angeles Regional Science Olympiad, go here and here.