Diocesan News

Young Catholic Queens Scholar Achieves Scouting’s ‘Supernova’ STEM Award

Diana Olewnicki and her son, Julian, look through the journal he submitted to win the Dr. Luis Alvarez STEM Supernova Award. (Photo: Alicia Venter)

MIDDLE VILLAGE — Diana Olewnicki’s son has always loved to tinker. Whether it is his toy or the TV remote, 8-year-old Julian has been able to take things apart, piece by piece, and put them back together. 

It’s a passion for learning and solving puzzles that led Julian, a Cub Scout and student at St. Margaret Catholic Academy, down a path that less than 1% of those in Scouting take — and made him the recipient of the Dr. Luis Alvarez STEM Supernova Award. 

The third grader, part of Cub Scout Pack 106, spent eight months of diligent time and effort — and more than 100 hours outside of school — to complete the requirements for the award, including time spent in the library reading up on famous scientists and trips to day camps to learn about various topics. He and his mother heard the good news of his award approval in May.

“He’s always loved taking things apart, putting them back together, building things and designing,” Diana said.

The Supernova Award recognizes achievement by a Cub Scout, from grades 2 through 5, in the fields of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM). 

In addition to the research, the project included  the results of interviews, science experiments, and research, all kept in a thick journal brimming with evidence of his hard work.

“I found Julian to be very inquisitive, always thinking outside the box, taking what he learned and applying it,” said Karen Gonzales, Julian’s second grade teacher last year. “Anything we did in science, he would take it one step further.”

Julian and Diana Olewnicki with his awards. (Photo: Alicia Venter)

There were months of learning about such subjects as aerodynamics, astronomy, coding, archeology, and paleontology. 

He made a module exploring how to create a sustainable base on Mars. That included investigating how humans would live on Mars and speaking to workers at the Department of Environmental Protection to learn about how they keep water supplies safe. 

One of his favorite parts of the award process was going indoor skydiving in a wind tunnel. 

“I got to do many projects and fun things,” Julian said, who shared that when he grows up, he aspires to be an aerospace engineer.

For the award, Julian also interviewed teachers at St. Margaret Catholic Academy, including Barbara Hartmann, a science teacher for the upper grades. 

“I’m happy that he’s so interested in [science] that he’s even doing it outside of school. That’s unusual,” Hartmann said.

Julian was enrolled in St. Margaret Catholic Academy because of the school’s ability to cultivate his interest in science, his mother said, and because the family attends the parish church. 

With its faculty and STEM lab, combined with their Catholic faith, Diana felt that St. Margaret Academy was a perfect fit for him.

“I chose Catholic school so he has access to all these extra things,” Diana said. “All the resources here, that was very important to me.”