Microbes (3): 9/10. This was a much better test than last year and pretty much covered all the topics in the rules. I appreciated the fact that most of the questions had you go beyond regurgitating something from a cheat sheet. There could have been less microscope stuff (the smaller microscopes were somewhat difficult to use and the image provided for the large microscope was missing the amount of magnification) and more short answer questions. The catalase test could have likewise been replaced with something more interesting to interpret (e.g. sulfur indole motility that had already been incubated). My partner also complained that it was difficult to distinguish between the red and the fuchsia for Mannitol on the image provided. The research article and graph on quorum sensing, while interesting, were also not particularly difficult to understand (as in they could have been part of an AP Bio passage).
Ecology (16): 1/10. Ecology lady listened to feedback and made the test EASIER than last year. The stations were far too short, and for many of the questions she provided you the answer in some form or another. One of the stations had you read an article and answer questions for which the answers were from the reading, another station was basically just giving the definition for alpha/beta/gamma diversity (not even calculating it), and two stations had simple graph interpretation. Some of the questions had arbitrary answers--for the "boom/bust" one we were debating between answering K-selected (given the context of the station) and predatory/prey. My guess is that Pembroke (not to denigrate them or anything) figured out the textbook she uses and thus is able to do well, but the test itself probably just depended on (1) the 3 desert climographs, which is impossible to do in 3.5 minutes if you want to include numbers and bars for precipitation, and (2) the conventional/sustainable agriculture questions, the amount of detail for which she failed to specify and the answers to which you could probably guess correctly.
Dynamic (12): 6/10. I don't think Enrica Quartini helped write the test because the format seemed different. I was very disappointed not to see any gravity or magnetism given how essential they are to any geophysics course, and also did not appreciate the two dump everything you know questions that each contributed to 20%. I think the epitome of the ES trying to be "creative" was having a question on the Arctic explorer who used bathymetry, the correct answer to which I still have not managed to find.
Experimental Design (10): 7/10. The grading seems more "fair" than in previous years given that top teams in general did not tank. I feel that it was a better lab than the one last year and the MIT lab this year, but worse than the MIT lab last year (the laser and mirrors lab). I appreciate that the supervisors paid attention to whether teams actually performed an experiment with sufficient trials.
Ecology was by far my favorite event and I am (like Varun) very disappointed to be ending my Science Olympiad career this way.
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PA Water Quality C Event Supervisor.
Harriton '18, Penn '22. Facebook
Fast Facts (1): 7/10. The event supervisors were very kind and enthusiastic. There was also a good mix of easy and challenging categories. However, there was one category that was a real pain: “Superheroes or villains that defy physics”. I’ve seen cancer categories before, but that just took the cake. Also, the event room was a lecture hall and it made it hard to write on the paper if it wasn’t on your desk.
Potions and Poisons (6): 9/10. One of the best potions tests I’ve seen thus far. It had very difficult questions and was a great test, with a few cancer questions. The lab required a dilution factor of 2890, which took a while, but it was a good lab.
Dynamic Planet (11): 6/10. I enjoyed the biology portion of the test, but the tectonic stuff was lacking in most of the components in regular dynamic tests. Was still a decent test, with candy at the end to compensate for the torture (the supervisor’s words, not mine).
Microbe Mission (14): 9/10. Once again, the event supervisor was very good. The format was similar to last year and one that I enjoyed. But, the fact that most of the answers for the questions were in the article that was provided kind of took away the need for studying.
Crime Busters (26): 10/10. The test was well balanced. Two mixtures, quite a lot of powder, plastics, etc ID, and a good amount of multiple point questions made the test the perfect mix. The fact that they provided candles to do the fiber burn tests won my vote.
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Anatomy and Physiology (28th) - Middling test, as tends to happen with most Bio events. Questions were decent, and the case study was interesting, although it was very short and sort of shafted several topics. Station rotation wasn't that well thought out. 6/10
Astronomy (11th) - Same as usual. Somewhat harder than last year, which was good (though not for us). That Balmer lines question was interesting. 9/10
Fermi Questions (6th) - Solid test, which was nice to see. Could have been a little longer though. 9/10
Herpetology (27th) - Well-designed station rotation, but definitely should have been at least 2-3 times as long and significantly harder. There were very few questions that we didn't know - I'm sure we dropped because of a missed ID in a few places. Fits with the general trend of most of the Bio events (besides Disease and Microbes) being poorly-run. 5/10
Materials Science (20th) - Top tier as expected. Focused more on individual polymers than I would have expected, but the questions tied in to general concepts really well. From what little I saw of the lab it looked pretty good. Length was also sufficient, although I could potentially see it being short for teams that knew all of the information. 10/10
Remote Sensing (14th) - Exceptional test, as expected. Good coverage of topics and interesting, well-written questions. 10/10
However much I gripe about some MIT tests being unnecessarily difficult and unapproachable, MIT test quality is consistently better than Nationals.
Opening and Awards Ceremonies were very good, at least second-best of the four Nationals that I've attended. I would even make the bold claim that awards this year was better than 2016. The main things missing from this year's Nationals was the sort of exceptional branding and marketing from 2016.
Edit: wow I must have been really tired to say that Herpetology had decent questions...
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Chattahoochee High School Class of 2018
Georgia Tech Class of 2022
Opinions expressed on this site are not official; the only place for official rules changes and FAQs is soinc.org.
Density 6/10 (6) - I found density to be rather easy comparing to the potential of the event. You literally could’ve walked in with the density formula and ideal gas law and done fine. It could’ve been way better. It was mainly just finding densities and counting. In short, easy and could’ve been way better
Potions and Poisons 10/10 (6) - Hands down one of the best labs and tests I’ve ever taken. The test was long and challenging (although my partner was able to almost take the entire thing Solo [Jimmy Bond]) and had rather advanced concepts. Usually all I see is the definition of words or identifying species, but this test took that farther and went above and beyond. The lab was REALLY tedious though. You needed to end up with around 10 mL of a 1:2890 blue dye solution. It took me almost the entire time to get it just right (had an almost perfect absorption factor). But, I abslolutely loved it as it was challenging. It wasn’t just a chromatography or pH lab like there normally is. In short, challenging, different, and fun.
Meteorology 7/10 (13) - Meteorology usually is really challenging and long, but this test was relatively easy and only was hard due to the 36 figures they gave. In the beginning, there was a mini lab which they only gave 4 questions for. They should’ve gave more or made it harder. What I did like was the advancement of analysis and topic. Usually we see the same things over and over again, but this time we got to APPLY those things with figures. In short, intricate, could’ve been harder, needs a better lab.
Disease Detectives 6.5/10 (25) - Disease was formatted almost exactly Iike last year’s test (which was actually really good) except there was a lack of scenario. It didn’t give you that epidemiology experience like how Wright states one did. It was also off topic, given that this year’s topic is foodborne diseases and not plagues..... there was only one or two questions on foodborne (which wasn’t really a problem for us), and didn’t focus on the actual field. In short, easy and off topic.
Crime Busters 10/10 (26) okay I see the irony, we did bad but I think it was good. Well it really was. To be continued...
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Farewell Division B! Time to get yeeted in C.
Highlands Intermediate School '16-'19 Pearl City High School '19-??
Astronomy - 9th: Overall, a very good quality test, though perhaps a bit on the easier side. I particularly liked the emphasis on concepts in sections B and C. I was surprised to see questions that dealt with binary system mechanics in a more theoretical way than usual. The DSOs were good, though I felt a few were ambiguous. On the supervisor side, all were nice and helpful, and I finally met syo_astro and AlphaTauri which was really cool! Rating, 9/10.
Hovercraft - 6th: Impound was a bit of a mess, with both divisions having to impound in the same room, so you'd be in for a 40 minute wait.The tracks were the same as MIT which was okay for us, but I know that some teams had difficultly with the surfaces and ran into the walls. The test was a bit on the easy side, but it was definitely difficult enough to differentiate between the teams. Rating: 8/10.
Mousetrap Vehicle - 6th: Pretty much perfectly run. The ESs were helpful and understanding, possibly due to the fact that some were former competitors. The floor was excellent and very grippy. Rating 10/10.
Write It Do It - 21st: Pretty decently run, though I was surprised when they announced that colors didn't matter. This added an added wrinkle into the writing which made things a bit more difficult for me as the writer. I suppose that the model could've been more complicated, since it was simpler than past models. Rating: 7.5/10.
Edit: One of my favorite things was just meeting people, from competitors to volunteers. Everyone was really kind and sportsmanlike, and it was great to see so many of the people I've admired and competed against in one place, and to find that they're even better than you thought. The tournament staff were phenomenal. When I was worried about my Hovercraft arriving on time, since it hadn't been delivered to the ballroom yet, they were very helpful and efficient in finding the box and bringing it. In terms of people, 11/10.
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