"B106, B107, B108... I ran down the desolate hallway, glancing frantically to my sides, looking for a room marked "B1113." It was 2:30, and I was late for my first meeting of Science Olympiad. I found my destination, hastily opened the door, and froze. Everyone was seated, intently listening to the captain speaking at the front of the class. I mumbled an apology, retreating to an open space towards the back of the crowded room.
My first weeks of Science Olympiad were torture. I had just joined, yet it seemed as though everyone around me already knew each other, and had something to work on, everyone, that is, except me. When it came time to choose my event for the year, I halfheartedly picked the first slightly interesting topic I saw: bridge building. For the next month, I conducted extensive research on every aspect of my event in solitude. I attributed this self-imposed isolation to the fact that other people would only distract me. Thus, I spent the next two months building bridges alone and thinking about how good it would feel when I won my first competition in December.
After much anticipation, competition day finally arrived and my heart filled with excitement as my bridge got loaded onto the testing apparatus. I slowly started pouring sand into the bucket that my bridge supported and heard a crack almost immediately. My bridge buckled, splintered, and then snapped in half to my disbelief. I defeatedly walked back to my seat, trying to think of excuses for what I perceived to be a huge failure. Shortly after sitting down one of my teammates approached me and I braced for the harsh criticism that I was about to receive.
"Hey! I'm sorry about your bridge. Do you mind if I give you a few tips"?
I hesitated for a minute and then managed to stammer, "No, I don't".
My teammate pulled out his phone and showed me a video of my bridge being tested. He slowed the video down as my bridge broke and pointed out the specific trusses in which it had failed, giving suggestions on how to reinforce these areas. At the end of the analysis, he offered to add me to a group chat that had other team members in the bridges event. I graciously accepted his offer and thanked him for the observations
This group chat greatly reduced the individualized approach that had been applied to building bridges and encouraged a diversity of ideas. We met during our lunch periods to discuss new designs and ideas to overcome the barriers we faced. Weekly building sessions were held at a local library to ensure that every member who needed help received it. As the weeks went on, we slowly progressed through competitions and managed to finish in the top 5 at the state tournament. Although the improvement was nice, Science Olympiad had become much more than just results to me by the end of the season. We had supported ourselves socially and emotionally through our interactions and had become united as a cohesive group willing to work together, no matter the challenge.