This year, he’s attached a pin mechanism that launches the ball with more precision and strength. He still records the data so he can direct the ping pong ball more accurately to any set distance judges ask him to target.
“I was the only one to make all four targets at last year’s competition,” Howell said proudly.
Howell, a sophomore, and some of his classmates from Coral Academy of Science in Reno, are fundraising to go to the state competition of the Science Olympics in Las Vegas early next year.
Some of its fundraising efforts have gone online and one particular search engine, called GoodSearch.com, powered by Yahoo, is donating 50 percent of its revenue, about one cent per search, to charities of the users’ choice.
According to a press release from Coral Academy, even 500 people searching four times a day through GoodSearch can generate $7,300 a year without cost to the user.
Users can shop various retailers – Amazon, eBay, Target, Best Buy and others – through GoodSearch and up to 30 percent of the purchase price is donated to the user’s cause of choice.
More than 85,000 nonprofits have registered with the site and 100 organizations register on a daily basis, according to the press release.
Tekin Tuncer, a Coral Academy science teacher and team leader for the Science Olympiads at the school, said as of Thursday GoodSearch received 600 hits for Coral, or about $6. The goal is to earn $5 a day.
Tuncer said by no means will it support the students’ financial needs, but it’s one avenue worth trying.
“It depends where (users) shop,” he said.
Science Olympics tests students’ knowledge of the sciences. At Coral, Tuncer said he and other teachers determine the students’ strengths and availability and choose who will best represent the school in the various areas and events.
The GoodSearch method of fundraising has provided a friendly means of helping the students. Students also offered a $20 coupon book for various restaurants and retail stores around town but Friday was the last day and those coupons expire Dec. 31, Tuncer said.
“It’s helped to build team spirit and build culture,” Tuncer said.
Coral senior Ana Manzano, 17, has participated in Science Olympics events for the past five years. She has an interest in health and contributes to her team with her knowledge of anatomy and forensics.
“We get to mix chemicals; it’s very fun,” Manzano said. “My favorite part is going into the competition and seeing who shows up, talking to other students and having them share their stories. … It helps us see how science ties together. We have a pretty good team.
Tim Chancey, also a seasoned Olympiad veteran, has improved his bridge-building skills over the years. He’s thinking about pursuing a career in aerospace and going into the Air Force in the future.
“(My bridge in the event) has to clear about 30 centimeters by 15 centimeters,” he said.
The state Science Olympics competition takes place in March at Rancho High School in Las Vegas. About 15 Nevada middle schools and 15 high schools compete at the state level, Tuncer said.
The top team to win in the state proceeds to the national competition in May in Illinois.