Nationals Event Discussion

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Re: Nationals Event Discussion

Postby MIScioly1 » May 20th, 2018, 8:03 pm

Justin72835 wrote:(I liked the calc questions spread out across the test!)


There were calculus questions on the test? I thought that was generally frowned upon in Scioly :?:

Unless you just mean calculation problems lol
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Re: Nationals Event Discussion

Postby Unome » May 20th, 2018, 8:15 pm

birdylayaduck08 wrote:Herpetology (31): 3/10. 34 stations and 1:30 for 2 questions per station. I don't really know what happened here; the test was way too easy for Nationals and I'm guessing we made a few mistakes that dropped us down to the bottom half of teams. It really is disappointing to put so much time into an event, medal in it at MIT, but bomb it at Nationals. If I could redo this event, I have no idea what I would do differently. Taking the test itself was really boring and tedious, usually the adrenaline of the competition makes the time pass fast and makes you forget about everything except for the test itself. I constantly found myself trying to stay focused and keep working or checking my answers, and it really irked me that the proctor prided himself on how challenging this test was, when every question asked the most stale and basic questions in existence. Overall, I have no idea what to think about this, from blaming myself for not being good enough to wondering what there was even to be done when anyone is infallible to a few ID mistakes and this in itself shouldn't determine your skill level.

This basically exactly describes what I think of the test. I spent the second half of most of the stations sitting on the tables to rest my feet because we had absolutely nothing to do, despite going very slowly on most stations. Also would like to second an earlier comment about incredibly vague answer choices (that one about the habitat of Trionychidae stood out to me as well, and I think there was something similar about Malaclemys).

The only reason I gave it even 5/10 is because the station rotation was well-designed.
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Re: Nationals Event Discussion

Postby ScottMaurer19 » May 20th, 2018, 8:19 pm

heterodon wrote:Herpetology (2): 1/10. The Nationals Herpetology test was very disappointing. The proctor was insistent upon how “challenging” his test was, when in fact it was exceedingly too simple for a Science Olympiad Nationals test. The test was made up of 34 stations, each of which only had TWO questions: One was identification, and the other was either a multiple choice question or a fill in the blank (only 2 stations were different: a rest station and one with two trivia questions). The multiple choice and fill in the blank questions were very baseline and simple (“what is the diet of this specimen?” “what does the animal do when in a cool environment?”). These questions are very basic, and each answer easily found even on the specimen’s Wikipedia page. Frankly, someone could have printed out the Wikipedia page for each specimen on the list and could have performed well. Additionally, some of the questions that were multiple choice in fact had multiple correct answers (ex: asking what the habitat of soft shell turtles are, two of the possible answers being “brackish environment” and “freshwater”, when in fact the Chinese soft shell turtle can live in brackish waters and most others live in freshwater). Limiting the answers to multiple choice when the answers are complex and nuanced limited our ability to prove our knowledge and research, and, in fact misrepresented many of the samples. Many teams could have lost points on these sorts of questions (as there were many examples of this on the test, most of them relating to habitats). However, the most egregious part of this test was how the proctor mistakenly provided the answers to the identification portion. He cited the images he provided, many of the being urls which had the NAME of the specimen inside of it. He did a very poor job of sharpie-ing out the specimen’s name and thus provided the answer. This test was too simple for this level of competition, and was evidently poorly run. A Herpetology test like MIT, which had in-depth biological, ecological content that required intensive research and knowledge would have been much more appropriate for Nationals. On the Nationals test, we weren’t asked to identify sounds, know about evolutionary history, specific anatomy of reptiles and amphibians (barring 1 question), or provide detailed information on every specimen. Months and months are slaved into researching and learning this event, and all of this felt wasted after taking this test.

Rocks and Minerals (9): 8/10. This event was run very efficiently and had great samples. However, the questions were on the easy side and were strikingly similar to last year's test.

Experimental Design (10). 7/10. Plenty of materials, allowed for interpretation and creativity with the given topic. Seemed better than years before.

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Re: Nationals Event Discussion

Postby Justin72835 » May 20th, 2018, 8:24 pm

MIScioly1 wrote:
Justin72835 wrote:(I liked the calc questions spread out across the test!)


There were calculus questions on the test? I thought that was generally frowned upon in Scioly :?:

Unless you just mean calculation problems lol

There was one calculus free response and one calculus multiple choice. They're always super fun when they come up, even if they are frowned upon by Science Olympiad :D .
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Re: Nationals Event Discussion

Postby RestingDoll » May 20th, 2018, 8:27 pm

Justin72835 wrote:
MIScioly1 wrote:
Justin72835 wrote:(I liked the calc questions spread out across the test!)


There were calculus questions on the test? I thought that was generally frowned upon in Scioly :?:

Unless you just mean calculation problems lol

There was one calculus free response and one calculus multiple choice. They're always super fun when they come up, even if they are frowned upon by Science Olympiad :D .

Technically, the hydrostatic force problem didn't need calculus if you had the integrated form of the equation.

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Re: Nationals Event Discussion

Postby MIScioly1 » May 20th, 2018, 8:55 pm

Justin72835 wrote:There was one calculus free response and one calculus multiple choice. They're always super fun when they come up, even if they are frowned upon by Science Olympiad :D .


Oh I agree, very fun. I think they are frowned upon because Scioly assumes that many people will have not taken calculus until they are seniors. I decided not to put calculus on my hovercraft test for that reason, even though I rrrrealy wanted to :)
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Re: Nationals Event Discussion

Postby syo_astro » May 20th, 2018, 9:05 pm

MIScioly1 wrote:
Justin72835 wrote:There was one calculus free response and one calculus multiple choice. They're always super fun when they come up, even if they are frowned upon by Science Olympiad :D .


Oh I agree, very fun. I think they are frowned upon because Scioly assumes that many people will have not taken calculus until they are seniors. I decided not to put calculus on my hovercraft test for that reason, even though I rrrrealy wanted to :)


Ahemmmmmmm, you probably know very well why I checked, demanded that you didn't, and you know how much coaches complained that the tests were still too hard;P (which, there was a lot of variation, some too easy, some too hard...).

Sorry for irrelevant post, go back to nats stuff (it was cool to see some of you...and almost saw some of you:P). Note: I did not actually write any of the astro test, but this was my first time at nats. I should be there next year too!
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Re: Nationals Event Discussion

Postby The48thYoshi » May 20th, 2018, 9:46 pm

Since I did this last year, might as well do this again.
Division B:
Anatomy and Physiology (1): I'm not going to lie, this is the hardest anatomy test I've taken all season. I felt liked we guessed for half of it and was feeling terrible as I walked out of the exam room. The test was originally meant for 50 minutes, but I believe the ES's extended it to 60 minutes after walking around and seeing that no one was done yet :D . Even though the test was incredibly difficult, it managed to stay on topic within the constraints of the rules. However, I would have preferred for the questions to not be completely multiple choice, and having the questions with multiple answers expressed as so would be quite helpful. Overall, I'd give it a 9/10

Disease Detectives (1): The test this year was more challenging than last year's test. While the two tests were around the same length, the formatting of this test was very different from the other tests I have seen at nationals. Some of the questions I had never seen before such as filing out a chart regarding the index case of an outbreak. However, like last year, the focus on foodborne diseases was once again lost, and the test overall was still fairly easy. Even though the difficulty of the test did not increase much compared to last year, the ES gave 40 minutes to complete the test, making it much more challenging. Overall, I'd give it a 6.5/10

Herpetology (4): The test, while it didn't seem very long, was much harder than I had anticipated. There were questions on stations where I had no clue about (especially the Ensatina and Eumeces stations). While the test did include an audio, it was included in a way such that it was very easy to guess it (they had an image and asked if the audio was from the same family). I feel like we had guessed at least 30% of the test. Overall, I'd give it an 8/10

Microbe Mission (1): I said it last year and I'll say it again: the test is far too easy for the national level. The formatting was identical to last year and even 2011 and 2012. Karen Lancour is a really nice proctor and made the experience enjoyable. The test essentially followed the training handouts on the soinc webpage, however, and did not include any nationals exclusive topics. Overall, I'd give it a 6/10 again.

Thermodynamics (13): I have nothing to say about thermo other than I severely under-prepared. Throughout most of the season, the test portion was essentially trivial and way to easy. The test at nationals was a good mix of easy and difficult questions and I have nothing negative to say other than that leaving the probes in the device impacted accuracy as the water heated up the probe to thermal equilibrium. Good job pikachu and company, you ran this event very well. Overall, 9/10.

This was my last national tournament in Division B, and while it was disappointing that we were unable to keep the championship for a third year in a row, I had a blast and I am proud of us, as a team. Congrats to Solon for a dominant performance, with 7 first place finishes.
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Re: Nationals Event Discussion

Postby pikachu4919 » May 20th, 2018, 10:41 pm

The48thYoshi wrote:
Thermodynamics (13): I have nothing to say about thermo other than I severely under-prepared. Throughout most of the season, the test portion was essentially trivial and way to easy. The test at nationals was a good mix of easy and difficult questions and I have nothing negative to say other than that leaving the probes in the device impacted accuracy as the water heated up the probe to thermal equilibrium. Good job pikachu and company, you ran this event very well. Overall, 9/10.


Hi there! It wasn’t really “[me] and company” since I actually was not at all involved in the writing of the test, nor was I involved in the planning of the water testing strategy, but that’s OK, you don’t need to change your post to reflect that. I was just a general volunteer helping out the supervisors as best as I could, but I’m sure they would appreciate your feedback! As for the probes, I believe (and this is my personal opinion - it may not necessarily reflect the intentions of the supervisors) those were left in the whole time because they were timed and set up to track the temperature for the entire cooling time, essentially to make sure the final reading at the end of 30 minutes was more accurate than us using a clock or a stopwatch or something of that sort to check for the passing of 30 minutes. I do understand your concerns, but yeah, none of that was really my idea in the first place. I’m glad you overall liked how the event was run despite some of the things that could have been better!
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Re: Nationals Event Discussion

Postby Tailsfan101 » May 21st, 2018, 11:31 am

Crime Busters (35): This was a great test. There were many unknowns to test, as expected, but they seemed to be well-rounded. The test theme was nice (a break-in at S.T.A.R. Labs), and I appreciated the questions. (Boy, I was amazed when my partner and I were almost done testing, and the ES says "You've got about 35 minutes left". It sure gave us a lot of time to work on the analysis.) 8/10

Disease Detectives (37): Gosh, I was sure stressed taking this test (by myself). Due to a late starting time, we only had 41 minutes to take the test. However, the questions had great variety, and seemed to cover almost all important aspects of this event. The only thing missing was foodborne illnesses... 7/10

Road Scholar (44): This test was a bit long, but the test itself was amazing. I appreciated the storyline (Hawking, Newton, and Einstein exploring Wyoming) and the questions were spot-on, covering pretty much everything this event has to offer. The one thing I disliked was how there were so many exams/answer sheets, which proved to be a bit confusing. 9/10

Microbe Mission (46): Definitely the worst test I took. The goggles were not needed at all, and spelling errors were all over the test. The ES's never announced when you were supposed to start your station, and the station rotations were confusing. However, the questions themselves covered the important aspects well, and showed a nice variety. Unfortunately, my first stations event was less than desirable... 5/10

Thankfully, the keynote speaker was much better (and much shorter) than last year's.

EDIT: Oh yeah, and I remember my friend telling me that the Thermo ES saying there was a Tailsfan on our team.
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Re: Nationals Event Discussion

Postby TheChiScientist » May 21st, 2018, 1:23 pm

Probably Pikachu as she was running thermo Div. B.
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Re: Nationals Event Discussion

Postby PikaPikaChu » May 21st, 2018, 4:58 pm

Dynamic Planet (28): I really disliked this test due to the focus of it. Rather than having questions about all topics on the rules, it focused on interpreting maps. They also told us they would deduct points for wrong answers. The questions were too obscure and there were 2 questions that forced you to write all you know about them. The "multiple choice" gave you two maps with separate sections of it labelled A-Z (some had AA, etc). The questions then asked you to circle the ones that applied and listed all choices. Not a fan of the test, (4/10).

Experimental Design (25): Good event, only one complaint. There was a yellow sheet attached to the very bottom of all the papers and listed the topic. We worked through the experiment until we realized the topic and had to quickly think of how it applied. Should have told teams the topic rather than attaching it at the bottom of the pile of papers. Regardless, very well run and good materials provided. (8/10).
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Re: Nationals Event Discussion

Postby Adi1008 » May 21st, 2018, 8:58 pm

What an amazing tournament; thank you to all the event supervisors, directors, volunteers, and countless others who put so much effort into putting together this National tournament. I was lucky to have all my events be very well run. Undoubtedly an unforgettable experience not only for me, but for the whole team, who I cannot be more proud of considering everything we did this year just to have the chance to compete.

As for the events:

Astronomy (4): This was one of my favorite tests of all time, but perhaps I am biased considering that Astronomy is also my favorite event of all time. Although my personal performance on the test left a lot to be desired, I am incredibly proud of my partner for sightreading all the DSOs and can genuinely say that I had a lot of fun while taking the test. I thought the test was excellently written; it was far longer and more difficult than MIT over the past two years and had some very challenging questions. Some say that the test was on the easier side, but I personally felt that it was quite difficult (although I am not quite as good at Astronomy anymore). I especially liked the conceptual nature of the latter half of the test, which seemed to emphasize understanding the topic instead of mindless calculations, complete with cool questions on spectral lines (Saha equation!!), binary system physics, millisecond pulsars, and more. And as always, all of the supervisors were extremely nice and helpful and did an incredible job in running this event well. I love this test, these event supervisors, and practically everything about Astronomy. 7822/10

Hovercraft (4): I woefully neglected the test portion of this event this year, instead focusing solely on the device, the painful memories of my state tournament only too fresh in my mind. Luckily for me, my partner, Justin72835, is far better than me at physics and managed to complete the majority of the test in the ~10 minutes I was gone to test the device, leaving us with plenty of time to double and triple-check our answers. I felt that the build portion was run exceedingly well, complete with well-built tracks and competent, understanding volunteers and proctors (although I was lucky to have an afternoon slot, and by then, usually everyone knows what they're doing and there's no hiccups). The track was a bit tough to work with because of how smooth it was, but such is the nature of the event, where adapting to different surfaces is merely another part of a very difficult build portion. The test was slightly on the easier side, but I think that's mainly because the event supervisor wanted a spread of easy, medium, and difficult questions. However, some of the questions of the test were reused from the year before, which I generally don't prefer, but it is a small matter in the end. In all, the test seemed moderately difficult, but nothing too hard or out of the ordinary.

If there was anything I would change about how this event was run, it would be the impound process. From my past experiences with Hovercraft impound (e.g. MIT this year), I tried to arrive very early so I wouldn't spend an inordinate amount of time waiting and risk missing part of my first event. However, impound for both divisions was run in the same place, and many other teams had the same idea as I did. I arrived at the room at about 6:45am, a full 15 minutes before impound even started, and there were ~40 teams in front of me. In all, I ended up spending ~50 minutes for impound (although about 15 of those were spent fixing some mesh stuff the event supervisor wanted me to correct). I don't know if there is anything that can really be done about this; there's simply a lot of teams (120 for both divisions) and the device has a lot of construction parameters, which means that impound for Hovercraft is inherently a time consuming process. Furthermore, there's only a finite amount of volunteers, and everyone is only trying their best. In the end, it's a small matter and doesn't detract from the quality of the event. 8/10

Optics (2): My time doing Optics has been one filled with countless failures, so having one triumph at the end was perhaps the most satisfying part of my nationals experience. The LSS was run perfectly; I can't think of a single way it could possibly be improved. The mirrors were perfectly made, the base was magnetic, the walls were straight, and the proctors were incredibly knowledgeable and methodical. One thing I especially liked was how they handled the covers for the mirrors: you were allowed to place the mirror on the LSS without the cover as long as you put the cover on immediately after. A lot of the time, the covers can interfere with being able to place the mirrors accurately, so this appeared to be a fair solution that still prevented teams from cheating by looking in the mirrors. The test was straightforward and covered a lot of physics, not trivia. I think the test could have been much harder (and could have had a lot more trivia, but I only say that because I especially focused on trivia stuff after getting destroyed by it so frequently), but overall, it appeared to separate the teams well enough. 9/10

WIDI (1): I have competed in WIDI twice at nationals and both times, it has been run impeccably. There is nothing I would improve about this event at all; the event supervisors are incredibly competent and do an amazing job of running this event, which can be quite challenging logistically. A few of the numerous things I liked about how this event was run:
  • The structure was HARD, although admittedly much easier than the 2016 structure in my opinion. It undoubtedly favors accuracy and technical skill over speed.
  • We received the writing in folders, preventing doers from reading the instructions beforehand and gaining a bit of an upper hand there
  • Although the writers and doers were told to meet at a certain room, the actual writing and doing were done in other rooms, preventing other teams from hearing about what was going on/inadvertently glimpsing the structure and possibly gaining an advantage
  • While waiting for the writing, we were given the chance to mess around with the materials and make sure we had everything
My partner is far better at WIDI than I am; in the four years he's done this event at nationals, he's only gotten a non-gold medal once, which was in 2016 when I did it with him (4th). I'm happy that in our senior year, I was able to get him back to first place, where he belongs. 10/10
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Re: Nationals Event Discussion

Postby Tom_MS » May 21st, 2018, 9:01 pm

Astronomy (3): 9/10. Nothing out of the ordinary for nationals tests. Awesome team of test writers, interesting questions, moderately difficult DSOs and general knowledge, interesting physics. I think that the physics could be a bit harder or the test a bit longer, but generally they do a pretty good job at nats.

Fermi Questions (10): 8/10. Fermi is always a toss-up event for us, and this time was no different. That said, there were some ways the test and organization could have been better. First of all, scheduling fermi as the first event is absurd. Especially for California teams for which it felt like 6 am. Second, there were a couple minor problems with the test. Some questions (if you took it, it was the one about painting a room) were a bit ambiguous, and others were poorly worded. Additionally, the test was pretty short for a nationals level competition. In the end, it was fine, but it could have stood for a couple more people on the team of writers. Good parts of it were that it had some pretty fun questions, and the questions were certainly at nats level difficulty.

Materials Science (7): 7/10. This test was certainly flawed, but like Fermi, it was perfectly acceptable as a Nationals level test. I noticed it focused a bit too much on nomenclature and weird areas like IR spectroscopy which, although in the rules, is too small a part of them for justifying very few questions on mechanical properties of polymers. The labs, although my partner did them, seemed just downright weird. You had to heat up cheese on a hotplate and test its mechanical properties a couple of different ways. That by itself wouldn't be a problem (and actually might be kind of cool!), but then you were graded on how strong the cheese you extruded out of a syringe was. Odd. Because of this bizarre grading system, my partner spent lots of time trying to get a good product instead of doing actual science. In conclusion, last years test was much stronger and on topic, and its labs were more interesting and better graded. Good parts include that the test was not off topic, it did have a variety of questions capable of differentiating teams, and it was a solid length.

Optics (10): 6/10. The laser shoot here was perfectly good. In fact, they carried it out better than almost any other competition I've been to. For once, I have no qualms with the laser shoot. The test was kind of meh. They had put the questions in a blue folder in sheet protectors, with strict instructions not to write on it. This would have been fine, but the sheet protectors were bound in the same order, so it was hard to efficiently split up the test or review your partner's answers. I found the test quite odd compared to last year. It was of course written by different test writers than last year, and you could tell. The first two thirds consisted of a mix of easy multiple choice, weird ray tracing, and an oddly worded question about floor mirrors (if you took it, you know what I mean). The last third consisted of out of place trivia questions and really easy absorption and reflection spectra questions. So essentially, the differentiating factor for top teams was probably the laser shoot and the weird ray tracing.
Now, only read this rant if you actually do optics. Ray tracing is normal. You always expect ray tracing. Maybe even two lens system ray tracing. Maybe even lens and mirror ray tracing (I've only seen it a couple times). But this seemed like poorly designed ray tracing. First of all, there was a disproportionate emphasis on it. About 4 questions required that you do it, and if I'm remembering correctly, 3 were 2-lens systems. Second of all, the answers were weird. According to ray tracing as well as math (unless we were doing both wrong, which is possible), some of the final images ended up inside lenses in the system. A correction had to be made as to the positioning of focal points in a diagram because their positioning was asymmetric. The final image ended up right next the intermediate image of some systems, making ray tracing messy and difficult. Maybe there is another method of two-lens system ray tracing that we don't get, but it felt really weird.

Remote Sensing (4): 8/10. I feel a little bad about not rating these guys higher because of how fun it was, but this was honestly a step down from previous tests I've seen from them. It felt like a good length, but it had a weird amount of physics. You had to do doppler effect calculations for sound, extensive prism calculations, several scattering questions worth too many points, and other physics questions. This all played to our strengths quite well, but it was missing the strong, prevalent image interpretation I've seen on their other tests. Don't get me wrong, it had some of that as well as good, image-based global warming questions, but considering how the rules were written, it seemed like an unfair test.

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Re: Nationals Event Discussion

Postby Unome » May 21st, 2018, 9:28 pm

Tom_MS wrote:It was of course written by different test writers than last year, and you could tell.

Demos and Voydanoff did C this year? Seems a little strange.

Although, your description sounds a lot like what I would expect from them.
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