Greg Saunders gives a simple explanation for why Eagle Valley Middle School's Science Olympiad team has won the state competition for the last four years: "We have a bigger book."
The coach, Eric Anderson, sees it differently.
"These guys just work really hard," he said. "I really laid low as a coach this year and they were doing things behind the scenes I wasn't even aware of."
The 17-member team, including two alternates, swept the state competition at the University of Nevada, Reno, for the fourth straight year Feb. 22.
They are preparing for the May 10 national competition in Columbus, Ohio.
Saunders, 14 and his partner Adam Carmazzi, 14, practiced their skills for the "experimental design" portion of the competition.
"We get all these materials, then we have to design an experiment," Saunders said. "The answer can be something you already know, it's just how well you write the experiment."
Although it may sound like a complicated and bothersome homework assignment, Carmazzi sees it as entertainment.
"I've wanted to do it ever since the sixth grade, but I missed tryouts," he said. "I love science. It's one of my favorite subjects and this is a good way to learn more."
The competition comprises 23 categories. The events range from quizzes on various scientific elements such as "In which form is water the purest," to hands-on competitions including the egg drop.
In the egg drop, students are given materials with which to make a protective covering for the egg. The egg is then dropped from increasingly higher altitudes to test the strength and durability of the covering.
Matt Berggren, 14, competes in the egg drop.
"It's a lot of fun," he said. "There's science and mathematics involved but it doesn't take a lot of studying. It's exciting to drop the egg from higher and higher and think if it will make it."
Erinn Anderson, 15, has competed all four years in the competition, but says it's not because her dad's the coach.
"I do it because I like it. It kind of prepares you for what you face in life," she said. "It's just a plus that my dad's the coach."
Team members are working on ways to raise money to fund their trip to nationals.
Anderson said he would like to see a corporate sponsor for the competition.
"It would be nice if they could just focus on science and not fund-raising," he said.