FAQs

Coronavirus

Will there be a season this year?
YES! Both National and Virginia Science Olympiad have pledged to conduct safe competitions and activities throughout the year. This means we WILL run this season – and as always, we’re committed to providing the best possible experience for the team!
What will the season look like?
While plans for the entire season are still up in the air, we know that the first few months (through mid-February) will be virtual. The most up-to-date information can be found on Virginia Science Olympiad’s website.
What will the application process look like this year?

This year, the application process will be conducted entirely virtually. While this means things will look different in practice, the spirit of our metrics will be maintained as much as possible. And as always, we will strive for a fair, holistic, and (especially) equitable process.

At this point, we cannot share many details for the sake of test integrity. However, you can expect the same components as past years, just adapted to an online format. These include an application form to be submitted prior to the diagnostic; a diagnostic exam testing problem-solving skills and aptitude for certain topic areas; a teamwork evaluation; and an optional pre-prepared supplement for those interested in building events.

How will the safety of participants be ensured?
Team meetings and tournaments will be conducted virtually for as long as the situation requires. Events will also be adapted to a safe, at-home format. For example, lab events will not involve chemicals or lab equipment; the data will be obtained through the written test instead.
What does a virtual tournament look like?
While many details remain uncertain and will vary across tournaments, most will be administered on the Scilympiad platform. You can take a sneak peek at Scilympiad by participating in the free monthly event challenges.
Will events be partnered?
YES! You will prepare (virtually) with your partners as usual, and tests will be taken together. On the Scilympiad platform, partner chat is built-in.
Will there be lab and build events?
Lab events such as Chemistry Lab and Machines will be test-only. While there will be no building events, some will be replaced with design-based events instead. Click here for the most up-to-date information.
I heard that there's an individual competition. How do I participate?

Close, but not quite! Nationals has announced the a supplemental program called MY SO, which releases a series of materials and workshops on a certain subject area every month. Everyone, regardless of prior Science Olympiad experience, can participate! Plus, there’s an optional “STEM Showdown” competition at the end of each month.

Note that MY SO is entirely independent from Science Olympiad proper and is considered an individual, supplemental activity and not a competition.

Science Olympiad and TJSO

Does Science Olympiad require background knowledge and/or prior experience?
Absolutely not! While background knowledge and experience may be helpful for some events, they are not necessary for success. You will find an entire team of wonderful people to get you on board.
Is Science Olympiad year-round or is it seasonal?
SO is considered a year-round activity, with each new year of SO called a “season”. However, due to competition policy, we must select a states team of 15 people from the original 45; this means the entire team will be active during the fall and winter, and the states team then continues competing into the spring. For more on the states team, see below.
How much time commitment does Science Olympiad require?

To preface, doing Science Olympiad at TJ is NOT mutually exclusive with other activities and sports. In fact, many of our members are also committed to activities such as marching band, cross country, Biology Olympiad, swim, debate, and so on. What doing Science Olympiad does mean, however, is making it one of your top priorities: Your success is proportional to the effort you put in, and for TJSO in particular, the team and your partners rely on your commitment.

You can at least expect two hours each week for our weekly Thursday after-school meetings, but the majority of time spent preparing will be at home in your own free time. Exactly how much time you spend is largely dependent on your events and your partners – we recommend developing a weekly schedule with your partner. As an example, for a study event, this might include spending two hours each weekend taking tests and studying together with your partner.

What kinds of events are in Science Olympiad?

There are a few broad categories of events: study events, lab events, building events, and inquiry events.

  • Study: you will be expected to take an exam, generally using a restricted set of resources as aid. These resources might look like a binder, a laptop without internet connection, or a set number of sheets of paper.
  • Lab: a study event with a hands-on lab portion. This might entail a chemistry experiment, constructing circuits, or testing different samples in a forensics situation.
  • Build: you design and build one or more devices according to a set of specifications and test them on competition day. These events may include a test portion as well.
  • Inquiry: A miscellaneous section! Some events focus on the nature of science/meta-skills, like Experimental Design and Write It Do It, while other events are just cool things Science Olympiad didn’t have another place for, like Codebusters.

The National Science Olympiad organization sorts events into five topical categories; you can see their categorization here, under “C Events”.

Is Codebusters a programming event?
No – it’s cryptography!! The “codes” in Codebusters are messages that you need to encode and decode using a variety of ciphers.
What are the different levels of Science Olympiad competitions?
There are three levels of competitions, which work in a progression: regional competitions, state competitions, and the Science Olympiad National Tournament. Performing well enough at regionals will qualify you for the state tournament, and winning states will qualify you for Nationals. In addition, there are invitational tournaments run solely for practice; they don’t affect the team’s progression.
What does a tournament look like?

Tournaments begin early in the morning and are split into roughly seven sessions, during which individual events are run. Each participant will generally have 3-4 events, leaving a few sessions of downtime for them to prepare. There is usually some passing time between each session, as well as a lunch break. Once the event sessions have concluded, we’ll hang out and grab a bite to eat before the awards ceremony in the evening.

The atmosphere and memories with the team you get are much harder to describe; you’ll have to trust us when we say it’s one of the best experiences of TJSO!

What financial commitments are required?

We ask for a fee (~$40-70) at the beginning of the season to cover the costs of tournament registration, t-shirts, and pizza. Before each tournament (usually 2 for the 45-person team and 2-3 more for the states team), we collect fees for travel/lodging expenses (~$100, potentially less or none if no bus or hotel, as in the case of regionals). For build events, you’ll also need to cover the costs of individual-use materials.

If you have trouble paying the full costs, it’s absolutely not required for membership – just let us know about it! We will definitely work with your financial needs.

Due to the impact of coronavirus this season, some of the fees associated with attending tournaments (as well as after-school pizza) will be reduced.

The States Team

Can you tell me more about the states team?

We start each season with three teams of 15 (collectively termed our “regionals team”), which compete at at least one invitational tournament and one regionals tournament. Due to competition policy, however, we are only allowed to send one team of 15 to states and beyond; as such, we choose 15 team members of the original 45 to represent TJSO at states. Selection is done by our sponsors and is largely data-driven, based on factors like placements, event coverage, and overall contribution to the team.

Not making the states team doesn’t mean you’re “kicked out” – everyone is welcome back to practices, either to help out or challenge the states team for fun!

Can freshmen make the states team? (I heard it’s impossible…)

Yes! Freshmen are almost always on the states team, either as alternates or as part of the main competition.

We treat freshmen and new members just as any other member; they bring home just as many medals and are essential to our team dynamic.

Do officers automatically make the states team?
No. Officers undergo the exact same selection process as other team members. All members, regardless of prior experience, are given equal chances based solely on their abilities.

If you have more questions, feel free to contact us at [email protected]!