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STEM — or science, technology, engineering and mathematics — has become a popular buzzword nationally in the past year.

And STEM will be at front and center Saturday, Feb. 25, at MTSU when more than 400 middle- and high-school students and 600 people altogether participate in the annual Regional Science Olympiad.

Keathley University Center’s second-floor lobby area is where participants, their coaches, volunteers and others will gather before the first events at 8:15. Separate awards’ ceremonies will start at approximately 3 p.m. in the KUC Theater.

“Science Olympiad is STEM,” said Dr. Pat Patterson, coordinator of the all-day event along with fellow chemistry department faculty member Dr. Amy Phelps. “Kids get real-world experience. It makes a difference in how kids understand STEM concepts.”

Sixteen middle-school teams and 13 high-school teams are registered, Patterson said, adding that some schools have more than one team entered. There can be up to 15 people per team.

The middle-school field includes Cason Lane, Academy Central Magnet School, Dayspring Academy (two teams) of Greenbrier, Rockvale, Smyrna (2), Spring Hill, St. Andrew’s-Sewanee, St. Henry (2) of Nashville, St. Rose Catholic School, Stewarts Creek (2) and Winfree Bryant (2) of Lebanon.

Blackman (2), Central Magnet, Eagleville, La Vergne, Oakland, Ravenwood of Franklin, Riverdale (2), Siegel, Smyrna and Spring Hill (2) are entered in the high-school division.

All teams will be trying to earn a berth in the State Science Olympiad, which will be held Saturday, April 14, at the University of Tennessee in Knoxville.

Patterson said MTSU faculty members comprise about 95 percent of the event coordinators for the combined 46 categories in which the teams will compete. Employees from General Mills and Murfreesboro Water and Sewer also are coordinating events.

Among the 23 Division B (middle school) events will be Disease Detectives, Keep the Heat, Mousetrap Vehicle and Reach for the Stars. Division C (high school) events will include Dynamic Planet, Gravity Vehicle, Microbe Mission and Remote Sensing.

An excited Patterson said that for the first time, more than 100 teams statewide are registered for regionals across Tennessee.