Extracurriculars: Science Olympiad

By Erin Kang
September 16, 2020 · 2 minute read




Earth Science



Science Olympiad is a national non-profit organization that promotes friendly competition among students of all ages. The organization creates opportunities for like-minded individuals to collaborate and solve problems under the umbrella of STEM. There are around 300 competitions hosted by schools around the country to fuel a passion for STEM and inspire the next generation of scientists.


Science Olympiad holds competitions at the regional, state, and national levels. Teams who qualify for the state competition at regionals will compete for a spot at the national competition. Competitive regions will have more teams qualify for states due to the number of regional teams competing. One team from each state competes in the National Science Olympiad Tournament held every year. Schools also host Science Olympiad Invitational Tournaments. Invitationals do not impact regional, state, or national competitions and rankings; however, they are good practice and allow schools to perfect their events before competing in the ranked tournaments. If you plan on participating in an invitational tournament, you must be a registered member of the state and national Science Olympiad program.  


The 23 events Science Olympiad offers can be categorized into three main groups. Lab events are hands-on and often require testing or designing an experiment. Lots of preparation and practice to get familiar with the possible lab equipment and set up is highly recommended. Some examples of lab events include Chem Lab, Circuit Lab, and Codebusters. Build events call for attention to detail and dedication to your model. Some build events require logbooks of the practice trials you completed and others come hand in hand with tests. For example, Sounds of Music has a build portion where you construct an instrument and perform for the judges and it has a test portion where you are tested on your knowledge of music theory and the physics of sound. Finally, study events consist of tests that assess your knowledge in a specific field of science. Depending on the study event, you can bring anywhere from a page of notes to an entire binder. Examples of study events include Anatomy & Physiology, Disease Detectives, and Astronomy. Each event has a page on the Science Olympiad website (link below) dedicated to resources specific to that event, as well as an event guide that gives a general overview and rules. Unfortunately, this year, due to the pandemic, some of the events will not be held, simply because there is no fair way to judge them online. 


Below is an interview with three high school students who have all had experience with Science Olympiad. Two of them are members and leaders of an established Science Olympiad program while the last interview is with a student that worked to bring Science Olympiad to his high school.

For more information and instructions on how to register check out these resources:

2021 Rules Manual: http://api-static.ctlglobalsolutions.com/science/Science_Olympiad_Div_C_Rules_2021_for_Web.pdf 

Science Olympiad Site: https://www.soinc.org/


Akash Bhat - James S. Rickards High School

What initially attracted you to Science Olympiad?

Outside of the fact that all of my friends were also doing Science Olympiad in 6th grade, what initially attracted me was the many different events that you could compete in. When I started SO, I had no idea what I wanted to do, so the opportunity to compete in a diverse range of topics appealed to me. I had bridge building, anatomy and physiology, and chemistry lab, for example. It was through this club that I first began to be interested in biology, and at the same time, realize that building events were not my strong suits.


What’s your favorite thing about it now?

My favorite thing about Science Olympiad now is probably actually studying for the events. There is so much content to cover, but the content is interesting, which makes studying feel worthwhile. In addition, you get to study with a partner, and often other people in the event too, which makes the process much more enjoyable. And, finally, the long months of studying make competing and winning at competitions feel much more satisfying.


What events have you participated in and why did you choose those events?

I have participated in Bridge Building, Hovercraft, Chemistry Lab, Fermi Questions, Dynamic Planet, Herpetology, Disease Detectives, and Anatomy & amp; Physiology. I did not choose to do the vast majority of them and instead was assigned to them because I had not been a part of the club before. However, whether I chose them or not, my experiences with most of these events have been valuable because I learned things I would not have learned in the classroom, and because I got to interact with new people. I want to pursue the medical track after high school, which is the initial reason I began competing in Disease Detectives and Anatomy & Physiology, two of the events that I did choose. I enjoy these events because they allow me to apply everything I have learned in biology class to answer questions that deal with real-life issues that I might likely encounter in the future.


How do you manage your time between Science Olympiad, school, and other extracurricular activities?

I used to create schedules for my day with everything I have to complete and study for, but I almost never end up following them. Instead, I make a simple list of my “stuff”, which has helped me much better. The list serves as a reminder that I always have more to do, which means I still relax when I feel like it, but I don’t waste too much time, and I usually manage to get things done. Also, following a consistent sleep schedule helps a lot.


What advice would you give to first years?

You might not get the events that you want at first, but there are many opportunities to prove yourself, so if you put in some effort, you will eventually be able to compete in events that you find fulfilling, with people that you enjoy working with.

Sina Mollaei - James S. Rickards High School

What initially attracted you to the Science Olympiad?

I initially joined because everyone else did it. My middle school science olympiad was hosting tryouts and I decided to give it a shot. It wasn’t until my first year of high school that I realized how big an organization it was.

What’s your favorite thing about Science Olympiad now?

The reason I did Science Olympiad varied throughout the years. It started off because I saw everyone doing it. The time I spent competing alongside my friends gave me a sense of community, and ever since then, it’s defined my high school life. And to answer the question, my favorite part of Science Olympiad is the award ceremony. Learning the material is definitely nice, but to go up on stage with your partner after working for a couple of months is the experience I enjoy the most.

What events have you participated in and why did you choose those events?

Throughout the years I’ve competed in Anatomy & Physiology, Disease Detectives, Invasive Species, Write it Do it, Circuit Lab, Dynamic Planet, Gravity Vehicle. Of those events, Write it Do it is probably the one I had the most fun doing. I didn’t get to choose my events at first, but after studying for them and performing well, I got to pick what I wanted. Now I do Anatomy, Disease, Write it, Do it, and Gravity Vehicle. I had no particular reason to choose any of my events, I did whatever interested me, and if I could do more, I would.

How did you get more involved with the club?

My freshman and sophomore were mostly spent studying. After my sophomore year ended I ran for the Vice President position in the club and got elected. Since then I’ve worked with the club and worked on issues we’ve had.

How do you manage your time between Science Olympiad, school, and other extracurricular activities?

A loose daily routine helps me a lot. I started off high school trying to follow a rigid schedule, but it ended miserably. In my opinion, you shouldn’t follow your day in specific steps, most of the time you can’t even predict what’ll happen. I set up my schedule so that I had a list of things I had to finish by the end of the day. During competition season (January - onwards) I cut off any social media account I had.

What advice would you give to first years?

You’re probably not going to get the events you want as a freshman. Dedicate yourself to the events you get assigned, and when you place in them, expect to have a lot more say for your sophomore year. I’ve seen too many people (including me) give up on their freshman year because they didn’t get what they wanted. It's frustrating, and I understand, but just spend that year putting some effort, and it’ll pay off. 

Ohm Parikh - Creekside High School

What made you want to start the Science Olympiad at your school and how did you find out about it? 

Initially, we wanted to start a Quizbowl team; however, since both of us enjoyed science and Science Olympiad is geared more towards science, we decided to found Science Olympiad. The first and most important thing is to decide what you want to do and for us, we wanted to do something that was competitive in the science field, something that we can get awards for, which is why we chose Science Olympiad.  If you’re not into that and want to do some sort of honors society or community service club then you should look for an organization that caters towards that. So, you have to have a good idea about what sort of club you want to do and the next step would be to find an organization that matches your interests. There’s some research that needs to be done when choosing an organization, and we looked at the homepages of several organizations, as well as blogs about the best science clubs. 


How did you initiate the conversation with your school to start the club?

First, I talked to one of my teachers to get a sponsor for the club. She mainly dealt with finances and the rest of the club management was up to me and Nick. I talked to my vice-principal at the school and got a form for my club. Then, I set up a meeting with the principal and I had to talk about what this club is, why I would like to do it, and how this club benefits Creekside. My school isn’t a magnet school or anything like that. It’s just a regular high school and we’re very athletically oriented with several great athletic programs. There’s a lot of kids in Creekside who aren’t interested in sports, but they still want to get involved in something. That’s how I presented it to my principal; it’s a way for people to get involved and shape their passion for science.

How did you go about gathering interest from your fellow students?

We decided to have requirements for our club, so a 3.0 GPA and be enrolled in or planning on enrolling in one or more AP or dual enrollment science courses. This was to make sure that the kids who were joining the club actually had an interest in science. Other than that, I had previously taken a TV production class so I was close to the teacher that produces the school news and I just let them know I was going to be advertising for Science Olympiad. We also handed out flyers to all the science teachers and asked them to talk about Science Olympiad at the beginning of their class. We also started the HOSA club at our school around the same time we started Science Olympiad. 


What were some adversities you had to overcome when starting Science Olympiad?

Nobody at our school knew about Science Olympiad, so it was super hard to draw interest. The students didn’t know they were competing, much less the types of competitions there are. It was almost foreign to us. Another thing we had trouble with was finding members that were dedicated to the club and practices. For most of the year, we had trouble getting people to come to the meetings and getting people actually prepared for competition and eventually we just couldn’t go to the competition. Out of the three or four building events, the Boomilever was the only thing that was completed. So, it was just hard to get members to be productive in the club. 



What advice would you give to people who are looking to start their own Science Olympiad club?

School starts in August and we came up with the idea for Science Olympiad around late August. Our first meeting was late October, so we barely had any time to prepare for the competition. So, my best advice would be if you’re going to start a club, do all the planning over the summer and you need to get the club started as soon as school starts. 

What’s your favorite part of Science Olympiad?

The thing I like most about Science Olympiad is that it isn’t exclusively science. It should honestly be named STEM Olympiad because half of the events are engineering, and I really like how Science Olympiad is able to offer events that cover a wide variety of STEM fields. I was also really looking forward to Protein Modeling, Anatomy & Physiology, and Disease Detectives. 


Anything else you would like to say?

We weren’t expecting to do well at our first competition, but we were just excited for the experience. The way we envisioned the club it wasn’t to be good right away, it was to set up a foundation so that kids in the future could do well. That’s really the biggest thing.  

Science Olympiad is an amazing organization that gathers groups of like minded individuals and fosters friendly competition among schools across the country. With the 23 events ranging from chemistry to engineering, there is no limit on what you can or cannot do. The competitions are incredibly rewarding and the memories you make will be priceless.

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About The Author

Erin Kang is a senior at James S. Rickards High School and is a part of the Sciteens team. Her hobbies include baking, listening to music, and playing the violin. If you have any questions or future article recommendations, feel free to contact her at erin@sciteens.org.

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