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Students watch as a pressurized water rocket falls from teh sky after its launch during the 10th annual regional Elementary Science Olympiad at Chattanooga State Technical Community College on Tuesday, May 17, 2016, in Chattanooga, Tenn. Hundreds of elementary students competed in science-based competitions that included egg drops, pressurized rockets, and bridge building.

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Students compete in 10th annual science olympiad

Taking a break from tapping her pencil on the white desk, Jada Higheagle adjusted her glasses and offered her teammate a reassuring nod.

"We got this," she whispered.

Higheagle, a fifth-grader at Spring Creek Elementary School, said she wasn't nervous as she looked at the thin paper booklet with a blank cover page in front of her and prepared to compete in the Categories Competition at this year's Science Olympiad.

Higheagle and her partner, Logan Carnes, a fourth-grader at Spring Creek, said they've been practicing for this event for months, and as soon as the instructor signaled, they and about 15 other teams in the room frantically ripped open their booklets and began filling in blanks.

An amphibian or reptile that begins with an "s": snake.

A mammal that begins with an "h": human.

They continued as time allowed to fill in as many blanks as they could, working to earn points for their school's team.

Higheagle and Carnes were just two of more than 600 elementary students across the county who on Tuesday competed in the 10th annual regional Science Olympiad, hosted at Chattanooga State Community College.

Tennessee American Water and TVA sponsored the event attended by many of Hamilton County's public schools and homeschool students who competed in a variety of events including the classic egg drop and a rocket launch.

Dorothy Rader, supervisor of water quality and environmental compliance for Tennessee American Water, said she was glad to be able to support hands-on learning.

"It really makes me excited to get kids excited about science and math," she said.

Scott Fiedler, TVA spokesperson, said TVA is glad to be a part of the event that gives back to education and creates kids interested in science.

Daniel Middlebrooks, a math and science teacher at Spring Creek who helps lead the Science Olympiad team, said the program provides students with enrichment and exposure to opportunities they don't get in the traditional classroom.

"I do this because it celebrates good learning," he said.

His student Jalen Ellis agreed, saying the Science Olympiad was one of his favorite parts of school.

"I actually have fun doing this," he said before racing off to his next event.

Jennifer Hartley, a literacy and science teacher at Spring Creek who also helps lead the team, said she loves being a part of this after-school program as it helps keep her on her toes.

"As a teacher this keeps you fresh," she said. "The kids are always asking us questions and pushing me to learn more."

Outside in the parking lot, Ron Boston, a fifth grade science teacher at Big Ridge Elementary, was helping with the rocket launch competition.

During this event, students shot their mostly plastic rockets into the air as judges timed how long they were in flight.

Holding a model rocket, Boston explained how the basic supplies used to make it could be collected or purchased for a couple of dollars. He currently works with teachers across the county to help them learn how to teach about rockets in their own classrooms, so kids can build their own.

"This is hands-on science," Boston said. "Science any teacher could do with their students."

Contact staff writer Kendi Anderson at kendi.anderson@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6592. Follow on twitter @kendi_and.

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