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General FAQs

Frequently Asked Questions

Science Olympiad is a national non-profit organization dedicated to improving the quality of K-12 science education, increasing male, female and minority interest in science, creating a technologically-literate workforce and providing recognition for outstanding achievement by both students and teachers. These goals are achieved by participating in Science Olympiad tournaments and non-competitive events, incorporating Science Olympiad into classroom curriculum and attending teacher training institutes.Science Olympiad competitions challenge teams of 15 students from their school to compete in 23 events across a wide range of STEM fields and topics. Events frequently change from year to year and present different and exciting challenges to the competitors. Students are eligible for awards in individual competitions, and teams receive awards based on overall performance, with top teams advancing from Regional tournaments to State competition and, finally, the National tournament.
Team registration for each season runs from the Tuesday after Labor Day in September until December. Teams must create a new registration each season, and must create a registration for each-Volunteers and Coaches can create accounts any time: Volunteer signup sheets for tournament specific activities will be posted on line once a schedule is finalized.What will your team do?MSO teams are similar to school sports teams in that they "practice" throughout the year to compete in various tournaments, including a state tournament in which middle and high school teams may qualify for the national tournament. Middle and high school tournaments are conducted on Saturdays and have approximately 24 events that students may compete in that cover the various science disciplines of biology, chemistry, physics, earth/environmental science, engineering and technology.MSO schools compete in leagues against similar sized schools in their own regions, and successful teams move on to compete against the best teams in the state. Individual medals and team trophies are presented at all levels of competition.
Any public, private, magnet, or charter school in Maryland is eligible to participate in MSO, and any student registered at the school may participate with their school’s team. Limitations and exceptions may apply to a school’s roster and age range makeup, see official roster rules for guidance.In addition, homeschool students are allowed to participate. This may be done through one of two options:Option 1 - Participation through a Local Public School. If the state in which a home schooled student resides allows home schooled students to participate in public school activities, home schooled students may either (1) choose to participate as a member of the Science Olympiad team at the local public school they would attend were they not home schooled, or (2) form a home school team as set forth in Option #2, below. Option 2 - Participation through a Home School Team Science Olympiad will recognize Home School Teams consisting only of students who live within the boundaries of two contiguous (side-by-side) geographic counties in a single state.Contact the State Office if you are a homeschool group and interested in joining to be sure you qualify.
While students must be a part of the school for which they are competing, coaches can be anyone and everyone who is willing to assume the responsibility and who the team and school are willing to have represent it!The types of people who have served as coaches include:-          Former Science Olympiad competitors (including high school students who are allowed middle school teams!)-          College students-          Parents-          Teachers from all disciplines, not just science, math, or technology-          Community volunteers-          Retirees-          Anyone who wants to take the time to helpDon’t go it alone, your team is not restricted on number of coaches, so feel free to recruit as many coaches as possible!
Up to 15 students from a school can compete per team (minimum of 3 per team), with three alternates who may be substituted on event day. These team rosters are submitted one week before each tournament. At each new competition (even in same season), teams are allowed to submit a new roster of students.Several rules and exception apply to roster personnel, see here for full details. These rules and exceptions include:-          High school teams are limited to seven (7) 12th graders per team.-          Middle schools are limited to five (5) 9th graders per team.-          8th graders who leave a middle school to attend high school are allowed to still compete with the middle school team while in 9th grade. The 9th grader roster limit of five (5) students still applies.-          Similar exceptions apply for schools with grades X-7 (up to five 8th OR 9th graders previously enrolled may return) and grades X-6 (up to five 7th, 8th, OR 9th graders previously enrolled may return).-          Schools that cover overlapping grade levels in a division (i.e. K-8, 7-12) are permitted to invite members below the Division level grade designations if no other outlet (such as division-specific team) is available. We encourage students to participate in the division that matches current grade level designations. In all cases, participation is limited to age-appropriate events or where safety is a concern (such as with chemical use), as determined by a coach, principal, or tournament director.
At official Regional Tournaments, each school will have one primary team (Varsity team) and a number of additional teams (Junior Varsity [JV] teams) depending on tournament availability. Teams are allowed to register one JV team at the opening of registration, and as space allows, we will announce if there are any more available spots for JV teams.Teams may NOT include the same students on Varsity and JV rosters (this includes alternates), nor may teams have Varsity students compete for their JV team or vice versa. Furthermore, no collaboration between a school’s Varsity and JV team is allowed during competition.While all teams are eligible to compete in all events, the results from the Varsity teams will determine overall school tournament ranking and advancement. JV teams compete for medals amongst other JV teams but have no bearing on a school’s overall results otherwise.Teams that advance to the State Tournament will only have their Varsity team compete.
To help make decisions about joining MSO, this is a list of cost and considerations to make as suggested by a former coach.-          Registration- The current rates are posted for primary (Varsity) and additional (JV) teams here. Each rate includes a National SO fee and a State SO fee; the State SO fee portion allows MSO to put on our competitions, provides funds for our Urban School Initiative program, and much more. All schools will register their first team as a Varsity team, and all additional may be registered at the JV rate.-          Event material costs- The costs of actually obtaining materials to build and/or compete in each event is variable and dependent on the event. Events are often written to require minimal materials, and many of these (such as glassware, goggles, etc.) can often be borrowed from a school’s supply. SO also provides many study resources and materials for their events online, and textbooks can often be borrowed from a library (note: online resources are not meant to be exhaustive). A rough estimate of supplies for a team of 15 students would be no more than $500. The costs usually covers supplies for additional teams at the school as well.-          Transportation and food costs vary according to the distance a school must travel to tournaments.-          Coaches Workshop (optional)- These workshops provide information about the year’s events and provide a forum for any coach to ask questions about events, tournament logistics, etc. Not required, but highly recommended. Each has its own (minimal) registration fee and may incur travel costs depending on location. See list of current workshops here.-          Invitationals (optional)- These are practice tournaments hosted by various states or entities and have no bearing on advancement. While optional, these tournaments provide invaluable experience of a tournament experience and obtain expertise from tournament officials. Each tournament has its own fee as established by the host. A list of some available Invitationals can be found here. Note that teams MUST be registered as an MSO team in order to compete in an Invitational.

  • Classroom activities
    The most productive method of using Science Olympiad activities is in the classroom. Some of the construction events are not conducive to this method. The construction events do use all of the science process skills but they do not always match the classroom science content. It is also difficult to conduct some of those activities safely in a regular classroom setting.

    The good news is that most of the events can fit the curriculum of a middle school science program. Some events fit the content of 6th grade best while others better match the 7th or 8th grade. At the high school level individual events have a natural affinity to specific courses such as biology, chemistry, or earth science. At either level the process skills demanded by the events are beneficial to all students.

    It is very worthwhile to challenge students with the events. They can compete with themselves by repeating an event to improve performance. Teams of students can work together to compete against other teams or this can be done by classes. A time can be set aside during lunch or a special assembly for students to "show off" their performance or to compete. Records can be kept and the final team can be made up of the students with the best overall performance.

    An intensive study of the events in the Science Olympiad has been completed by the North Carolina organization showing how each event fits into the North Carolina Course of Study for middle and high school.
  • Special class
    At some schools the Science Olympiad team has evolved into a semester or year-long class. This has advantages in that it gives students plenty of time to practice the events under the direct supervision of a teacher. But this method has several disadvantages, as well. Students usually take the class once and may not be in the class just prior to the competition. Some students who may have taken the class as a younger student are experienced, but they not in the class during this year. Usually when a school has reached the point where it has a 'special' for Science Olympiad, the teachers have tried all four of the methods for preparing the students.
  • After-school experience
    This method is done in an extra curricular fashion. Events can be scheduled throughout the year after the school day. Some events can take place once or twice as a competition without much practice before the school-level competition. Others can be scheduled and advertised well in-advance of the school level competition (such as the construction events). The practices or meetings are usually scheduled for about 1 to 2 hours after school. Some schools start with a monthly meeting and go to a weekly schedule during the two months prior to the regional competition. Some schools even meet every day during the last week and on some Saturdays.

    This method should be open to all students but the fact that transportation is needed for students to get home may limit some students from participating. Some schools have found creative ways to provide this transportation for the students. In any case, it is difficult to supervise more than 30 students at a time, so this method does limit the number of students involved. However, by having other teachers or people from the community, you can divide the students into smaller groups and accomplish a lot more.

    Usually this method is most effective when other teachers or resource people from the community join the students on days when the events being practiced match their area of expertise. It is not unusual for a team to have 10-15 people come in to help during the school year.
  • Combined method
    This method is used by most schools. Although many teachers say that they would like to have a special class for the Science Olympiad, it is difficult to have such a class in most schools. Instead, the typical method involves combining in-school and after-school activities. This combination has many advantages. It involves more students and includes all events. Then those who are more dedicated and want to spend extra time can practice the events and be members of the team that travels to the regional tournament to represent the school.
Running a Science Olympiad team or coaching a Science Olympiad team requires people and resources. Recruit help from everywhere. You CANNOT do this alone!
Start with your school administration. You will not be successful without their support. You may want to remind them that the price for membership of an entire team is approximately the price for one football helmet.
Enlist help from other teachers at your school. They don't have to be math and science teachers to help you organize or manage your team.
Form a Science Olympiad Booster Club and let your boosters accomplish fundraising and recruitment of coaches. Check to see if team parents work for employers that:

  • Provide funding if parents volunteer time to the school/team,
  • Matches funds the parents contribute to the school/team,
  • Are science oriented and would donate old equipment, materials, money, or volunteers.Many teams receive sponsorship, support, and volunteer coaches from local service clubs, parents' groups, school boards, intermediate (regional) school districts, senior citizens groups, engineering offices, local community colleges and universities, science-related businesses, book publishers, the military, science supply houses, newspapers, park service officers, county extension offices, high school students or college students needing community service hours, honor fraternities and societies at local universities, local companies, corporations, and industry.You could also try fast food chains, local congressmen, garden clubs, conservation groups, professional associations, businesses, anyone! Many businesses require about six weeks for contributions to go through their machinery, so allow enough lead-time. Don't forget to recruit coaches from local business and industry. For example, engineers are great to help students with bridges, towers, trebuchets, airplanes, bottle rockets, Mission Possibles, and so on. There are tons of folks right in your community that are experts in the events your students are competing in. Reach out to them and get them involved!
The official Rules Manual is now available free of charge directly at the National Science Olympiad Website
All coaches, event supervisors, and volunteers should go to the tournament registration desk upon arrival, confirm your arrival on campus, and pick up any required items. This location will be announced and posted before the tournament, consult posted documents on the tournament page to see the location (along with other location info, parking info, etc.).Coaches should bring their team roster that has been completed online and signed by the school principal (note: you MUST plan ahead in doing this!).  You will receive your team’s wristbands at registration, which are necessary for students to compete.Event supervisors should plan on checking in 1.5 hrs prior to the event (depending on the event). Unless otherwise brought, supervisors will obtain their test packets, materials, and any needed instructions at the tournament registration desk. You will also get your MSO volunteer t-shirt!Volunteers assigned to an event should plan on arriving 45-60 mins before their scheduled event, as needed, in order to help set up each event. Check in at tournament registration to pick up your t-shirt, and we will also have coffee and snacks that you are welcome to take! You may also return here at the end of your shift to sign out and inquire about receiving verification of volunteer hours. 

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