Brothers work for success on Science Olympiad team
Hinsdale Central senior Danny Mallek (left), and his sophomore brother Andrew, 15, operate a remote controlled arm they designed and built for the Science Olympiad team. | Michael Jarecki~for Sun-Times Media
Updated: May 27, 2012 8:17AM
Danny Mallek said he and his younger brother, Andrew, usually don’t get along particularly well.
But despite being typical teen brothers in that sense, Danny, a Hinsdale Central senior, and Andrew, a sophomore, certainly worked well together on their school’s Science Olympiad team. The Clarendon Hills residents earned a first place for their robot arm in the April 14 state Science Olympiad at the University of Illinois.
The first-place finish by the brothers helped Central to fourth place overall, the best finish in school history.
The Science Olympiad is a hands-on event that encompasses all areas of science in the same competition. Biology, chemistry, earth science and physics are emphasized with engineering and technology applications that combine several of these disciplines. There were five meets prior to a regional competition.
Competition with the robot arm included controlling the arm so that it picked up pencils, PVC pipes, nails and batteries and put those items into designated boxes.
This was the first year in which either of the Mallek brothers participated on the Science Olympiad team.
“We’re both interested in science and engineering,” Andrew said. “I thought it would be fun to join Science Olympiad and told my brother he should join, too.”
Andrew said living in the same house as his partner made working on their robot arm easier. They started work in November and finished in December, before making minor changes after that.
“We scored a 50 in our first invitational, which was like a practice,” Andrew said. “We changed our motors because they weren’t strong enough. I was a little nervous at state, but we scored 91. It was exciting to win.”
While both brothers worked to create their robot arm, Andrew operated it during the state competition.
“We were going to share doing that, but decided to have me do it,” Andrew said.
Danny said he had no problem letting his younger brother handle the controls for competition.
“He was much better at controlling the robot from the start,” Danny said. “It’s probably because of all time he spends on video games.”
Despite any sibling tension, Danny said he enjoyed having the opportunity to work with his brother.
“We learned to work together pretty well,” Danny said. “We both have interests in engineering.”
Jon Schmidt, a technology education teacher at Central who was one of the coaches, said one common trait of the brothers was the key to their success.
“They both have a passion for it,” he said. “They did bicker some, but they worked well together. The robot was the hardest event this year. Their first version was very good, but they made improvements that made it better.”
Danny is set to graduate this spring and plans to study electrical or aeronautical engineering at Iowa State University. Andrew said he plans to return to the Science Olympiad team the next two years.
“I’ll stay with it,” he said. “I’ll miss my brother. It was great to work with him, even though we fought sometimes.”