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Elementary Science Olympiad Event Updates



Q: Will the students be allowed to use to cheat sheets for all of the events? 

A: No, unless an event specifically states that a reference sheet may be utilized during the event, NO outside written materials will be allowed in.


Bridge Building:

Q: Can you tell us what type of straws and tape will be used? 

A: No – we will not share which type of straws will be used, but they will be easily available though a variety of websites.   Regarding the tape, the students will be proved a length between 12-24 inches.


Q: Will the supporting structures for the bridge (tables or chairs) already be available from the start? 

A: Yes.


Q: Are we allowed to tape the end of the structure onto the table or chair?

A: No.  The bridge will ultimately be moved to the official judging area.


Q: Can the adult help in holding up the structure while it is being set-up, or are only the children allowed to touch the materials?

A: This is a closed event.  Only the participating students will be able to enter the competition area.


Q: Last year the time for bridge building was less than the 45 minutes stated on the rules sheet.   How much time should students expect to have for building this year?

A: Students will be given between 30-40 minutes to build their bridge.


Q: Sorry for the additional question, but the feedback to my original question on taping the suspension cable to the support was answered above. Now, the “problem with suspension bridges are that they are anchored into the ground. If this is not allowed, then a suspension bridge no longer functions, and hence a different bridge type has to be chosen. I copied a load distribution picture below, that illustrates the working principle. With removal of the abutments/anchorage points (i.e. “taping the cables to the support structures”) the design does not work.

A: Since this competition is aimed at elementary school students, Science Olympiad uses a loose definition of "suspension bridge." In fact, because only straws and tape are provided, it is near impossible to make an actual suspension bridge and teams are more likely going to have success building another type of bridge. We realize that this is confusing in the written rules, but in the past, teams have used the straws and tape provided to build many different types of bridges, none of which have been actual suspension bridges.


Crime Busters:

Q: Will the flour used be self-rising or all purpose? 

A: Students should be prepared by experimenting with both.


Q: Do the student have to have lab coats?

A: Per the rules manual, Competition Rule #4 states students must bring and wear their own chemical splash-proof goggles and a lab apron or coat.


Q: Will students be allowed to prepare a powder chart in advance to bring into the competition or does this information need to be memorized?

A: No written materials will be allowed to be brought in to the competition room so yes, information will need to be memorized.


Q: Will the participants be given a set amount of solutions to test the powders, chromatography, etc.?

A: Yes, assumably between 44 – 88ml.


Deep Blue Sea:

Q: Is there a focus this year to narrow down what exactly we need to prepare for?

A: The focus will be on coral reefs.


Disease Detectives:

Q: May students bring calculators to Disease Detectives to help with calculating risks, etc?

A: No calculators will be allowed.


Q: Is that an area we need to concentrate our studies this year?

A: Focus on the identification, prevention, and transmission of disease.


Map Reading:

Q: Is there a particular focus for the map event, such as political maps, topography, geography? 

A: Teams should be familiar with all of the maps referenced in the event competition guidelines #1.


Measurement and Metrics:

Q: Having the students measure the object they select and comparing it to the object measurement asked for does not make sense to me.  A student could select the wrong objectmeasure their selected object incorrectly and end up with a difference of 0.  If the actual measurement of the selected object, as measured by the judges, is used as the comparison then it would make more sense (e.g.,  Length asked for – length of object selected (as measured by the judges) = difference in measurement).

There is also a problem with summing the differences in measurement as shown in the sample table.  It makes sense to me that you should sum the absolute value of the differences.   As long as a team is unbiased, overestimation and underestimations being equal, the sum of differences could yield a sum of zero, yet their estimates could be very imprecise (very high and very low).  I don’t think that would be reasonable way to select a winner.    

Also, when choosing objects for the event, objects with large magnitude of value will have a greater influence on the results as the magnitude of errors will likely be greater.   Perhaps a percentage difference would be better:   e.g.    (Length asked for – length of object selected (as measured by judges)/(length asked for) X 100.   If the magnitude of measurements asked for are similar , then the problem would be less.

A: Choosing the correct object to predict in Part 1 is a critical part of the competition.  To avoid the situation referenced (summing the differences of incorrect items in measurement as shown in the sample table), before Part II begins, if a team would like to have an event coordinator check to see if students selected the correct items, the team will incur a minimum 10 point penalty.


Additional Info: We have had multiple questions regarding this event, particularly in terms of the set-up and the scoring. To minimize any confusion and to clarify how the event will be run at Auburn University, please see the attached document for the modified rules. This document also lists materials that will be allowed within the competition room.


Q: Will students need to bring a scale of some kind to find the mass of an item?

A: No, any needed scales will be provided.


Mission Possible:

Q: I want to confirm that the task for Mission Possible this year is Task A, make a loud sound at the end of one minute, as listed under rule 1. Under rule 4 it states that the task must be completed as close to 2 minutes as possible. I assume that this should read 1 minute for Task A and 2 minutes for Task B given what is stated in rule 1.

A: Yes, per the 6th Edition Rules Manual, per Mission Possible Rule #1 Task A will be completed this year (2018). Regarding Rule #4, the task must be accomplished as close to 1 minute as possible as this matches the Task A requirement.


Q: #4 states that "only home made timers can be used". Does this mean that the event participants will have to build a homemade timer that is as accurate as a store bought one and use it to make sure the sound is heard after 1 minute?

A: Yes, you are assuming correctly.


Q: I understand that the task should be competed as close to 1 minute as possible. I read that as the task should be completed and then the machine should stop as close to two minutes. Should everything stop at 1 minute?

A: You are correct.  The loud sound must be made at the end of one minute but teams will have a total of 2 minutes to complete their unique action transfers (including the sound at 1min).


Q: Rule number 4 on the sheet has been updated to indicate that the task must be completed as close to one minute as possible. Is the penalty updated as well to indicate that one point will be subtracted for a second over or under the one minute time limit?

A: The answers to previous questions as well as the original rules Science Olympiad provides are a little unclear. For this year, ringing the bell at 60 seconds is the main task, but there is still more that a team can do to earn points. The bell should be rung between 55 and 65 seconds to receive an additional 7 points. If the bell is rung at all, then the team will receive 50 points. The 1 point penalties that the rules mention correspond to the final time limit of 2 minutes. A machine should use as close to 2 minutes to accumulate points, even after ringing the bell at 60 seconds.


Q: Will parents be able to help students put the larger components of the Rube-Goldberg Machine together? Just the frame and heavier wooden pieces. Just thinking of larger stable pieces of wood that will need to be set before the interactions can be set. Students would set all balls and place pieces internally where needed.

A: Yes. The Mission Possible event will take place in the same location as the opening/closing ceremony. As teams check-in, please let us know you are participating in this event and we will have a volunteer show you to the appropriate location. Ultimately this is a closed event (not open for adult/student observation) so any team that is participating will need to be set-up prior to the start time of 9:30 AM and teams will not be able to break down their machines until the last team has completed the event at 2:20 PM.


Q: Will tables be provided to set up the device or if one is needed are we allowed to bring a table?

A: Yes, tables will be provided.


Q: Does the timer need to be part of the reaction or do they just have to start it as they start the reaction?

A: No, the timer cannot be part of the machine, therefore it is not part of any reaction.


Q: Is a home-made timer required for mission possible? Can a device not have a timer?

A: A machine does not have to have a timer but if it does, it must be homemade.


Q: If they use a candle as their heat reaction can they light it as part of the setup, or does lighting it count as their one contact?

A: If a team elects to use a candle, it would need to be lit as part of the set-up.


Q: May we use Alka Seltzer as a means of chemical energy on our Mission Possible machine?

A: Yes.


Mystery Liquids:

Q: Do the students need to have a scheme developed in advance to bring with them or is this something created during the event?

A: According to the phrases: "students may use their notes" and that "10 points are from an effective scheme to solve the problem", I read that to mean if students have a scheme that they plan to follow in their notes, that is acceptable. However, when the final scheme is turned in, it would need to be part of their answer sheet and explain exactly how students identified the mystery liquids that were presented. While students may find a template of a scheme to be useful, the final scheme will need to be made during the competition.


Q: How many pages of notes can each team bring to the event?

A: There is not a limit on notes according to the pdf. I would say that since no one else has a limit imposed, it would be unfair to give an exact limit this late.


Q: The instructions state that teams score 10 points for an effective scheme or written plan to solve the problem'. What does this mean?

A: It means there should be a scheme explaining their process of how they solved the problem.


Q: Can they simply turn in their notes for the written plan?

A: No - they will need to explain their process during the event and that can therefore not be generated before had. A blank scheme or plan of how they want to figure out the liquids could be in their notes, but the actual scheme of what they did during the actual event will need to be written on a worksheet provided to them at the event.


Q: How do they communicate their 'scheme’?

A: There will be a blank area on the worksheet to turn in to be graded and they will need to write their scheme on it.


Q: Will the Mystery Liquids only be water, salt solution, bleach, mineral oil, alcohol, and vinegar?

A: The liquids will be the ones listed in materials on the mystery liquid pdf. Yes, there will only be those 6 solutions.


Pasta Mobile:

Q: Can hot glue be used to glue pieces together as it is a widely available commercially available glue?

A: Hot glue is commercially available so the rules this year will allow it but only in minimal amounts. The rules should have read “room temperature commercially available glue”.


Rubber Band Catapult:

Q: Are the rubber bands provided or do we bring our own?

A: Students will need to bring their own rubber bands as long as they follow Rule #7.


Q: Does it need to be three different rubber bands?

A: We encourage the students to bring their required 3 rubber bands  (see Rule #6) and several spares as well in case one breaks.


Q: Will the catapult be placed on the floor?

A: Yes.


Q: Will the participants be able to place the catapult at any angle from the target as long as the catapult is behind the line? 

A: Yes.


Q: Will the students be told or able to measure the distance from the starting line to the target once they get to the competition?

A: Participants will be told the distance.


Q: How much time will the participants be given to launch their three rubber bands?

A: The rules state “Approximate Time: 20 minutes” We will allow no more than 20 minutes.


Q: Will the distance of the target from the starting line be given to the nearest tenth or hundredth of a meter? Will it be given in centimeters?

A: The distance to the target will be given to the nearest hundredth of a meter.


Q: Are the students allowed to use a measuring device when positioning their catapult behind the starting line?

A: The students may use the 30 cm ruler WE provide and may not adjust the catapult more than 30 cm behind the line (as measured from the rear of the catapult).


Q: Are students allowed to bring in a 30-cm ruler or meter stick to help in positioning their rubber band catapult various distances from the foul line depending upon the given target distance from the foul line?

A: The students may use the 30 cm ruler WE provide and may not adjust the catapult more than 30 cm behind the line (as measured from the rear of the catapult).


Wildlife Safari:

Q: What is the focus of the 2018 event for Wildlife Safari?

A: The 2018 event will be based on birds and will use the Audubon Guide.


Q: Which Audubon guide for birds will be used? I have found both  eastern and western region guides.
A: The Eastern guide


Write it/Do it:

Q: Our country competition had a team of 4 – 2 writers, 2 doers.  Does the Auburn competition follow the Science Olympiad guide with just 2 team members?

A: Yes – only 1 writer and 1 doer will be allowed.

Last Updated: 02/21/2018