Eighty-four middle school students from across the Rio Grande Valley competed in MATHCOUNTS on Saturday, Feb. 9, at the UTRGV Edinburg Campus.

Designed to challenge middle school students, the MATHCOUNTS program offers four levels of competition featuring both a rigorous written competition and a fast-paced oral competition.

This national program provides students the opportunity to compete in live, in-person contests against and alongside their peers.

“It was really nerve-wracking, seeing all the schools come in, not knowing who would do well, who would win. It’s a lot of anxiety, but it gets you pumped up to do better,” said Hailey Aul, a member of the Sharyland North Junior High team that won first place at the UTRGV MATHCOUNTS competition.

Advancing to the state competition on March 30 in Austin with the opportunity to advance to the national competition are:

Sharyland North Junior High and Rising Scholars Academy of South Texas.

Ricardo Ochoa, Kenneth White Middle School, Mission.

Richard Zayas, Rising Scholars Academy of South Texas.

MATHCOUNTS is one of three events UTRGV is hosting in February that are geared toward STEM – science, technology engineering and mathematics – education and career awareness.

“We believe middle school is a critical juncture when a love of math must be encouraged, and a fear of math must be overcome. More than a quarter-million students participate in or use MATHCOUNTS resources each year,” said Lee Jones, Community Affairs and Customer Service manager with AEP Foundation. “The Rio Grande Valley Chapter of Professional Engineers is proud to support this program along with our partner UTRGV and the participating school districts.”

On Feb. 2, UTRGV hosted the Rio Grande Valley Regional Science and Engineering Fair, with about 700 middle and high school students from across South Texas competing in 22 different science-related fields of study for the opportunity to advance to state and international competitions. Of those students, 132 have advanced to the state and international competitions.

In addition, UTRGV will host the Regional Science Bowl, a fast-paced question-and-answer tournament designed to test students’ knowledge in biology, chemistry, physics, mathematics, astronomy, earth science and general science on Feb. 16. Participating will be 200 students representing middle and high schools from South Texas. The first-place teams will advance to the National Science Bowl in Washington, D.C., in late April.