Thoughts on Mission Possible after MIT
I thought I would do a quick write-up now that Ive had some sleep and can think cohesively again. I am not going to release raw scores or anything of the such until I get permission to do so from MIT SciOly. But I will provide some useful comments and numbers that can be of use to you all.
Top 3: ~1200
Top 6: ~1100
Top 10: ~ 1000
Overall: Out of the 76 teams, only 57 showed up. MIT SciOly was VERY clear about running all events using Nationals rules this year - those that were tiered hopefully will be more vigilant about such things. Overall, the event ran pretty smoothly and I was quite pleased - I had put alot of thought into how I was going to run Mission for such a massive number of teams by myself. In the end, I knew I wasnt going to be able to judge all the devices myself, and I ended up recruiting two additional ESes that had varying levels of familiarity with the event, and I felt they did an outstanding job judging teams.
Setup: I was told I had the Lobdell Balconies, and the rest was pretty much up to my discretion. I thought breaking it up into an "impound side" separated by a walkway that lead to the "Competitor side" was the most optimal way to set it up. I created a barricade with chairs for spectators so that they could have a good visual on devices that were competing, but not the ones in impound. As a recent build events competitor myself, I know teams want to try their best to keep their innovative designs secret until states/nationals. Spectators had no access to even looking at the impound area and I was very clear about pictures/video only being allowed for their own teams. I did catch one person trying to take pictures of more than one device, but after I demanded her to identify her team affiliation and told her I would DQ her team if I saw her try to take another picture of another team, I had no more issues. I had signage stating "Pictures/Video for your team only, violation is grounds for DQ". In the future, I plan to increase the signage of this and make it even more clear. I dont want teams feeling like they need to hide their devices and not bring them to tournaments because they are afraid of others stealing their designs, and I want to do everything I can to promote the best competition possible.
Impound: I was very worried about impounding 76 devices, but (thankfully) only 57 teams showed up. At the last minute the night before the tournament, we sent out an email to coaches stating we were starting impound 1 hour earlier for a total of 2 hours so that students with other events to impound or compete at wouldnt be stuck in a line. I was glad I chose to make an impound sign-in sheet so that there was no question as to whether or not a team had impounded their device.
Competing: The first two time blocks were rather busy. This was in part due to me having to run back and forth with HQ to deal with arbitration, but also because my other 2 ESes and I were judging a few devices together in the beginning to make sure they understood the flow I wanted to use so that we would all be consistent. If you are worried about missing an event, I highly recommend NOT signing up for the first two time blocks because those will always be the least efficient on the ES side. However, if you want to see other peoples devices and dont mind having to wait, this is a good opportunity to sign-in and then go and spectate while you wait for your turn. I saw some very innovative designs and some of the timer designs were very impressive. We caught a large number of teams interpreting tasks wrong and stating that it had been OK at ________ invitational so they thought it was fine. What surprised me the most was how many teams just accepted that a task wouldn't count for points when another ES or myself told them we didn't think they interpreted the rule correctly. While I do not want a full argument to break out while judging teams, I do like to seem teams do their best to understand why I am taking away points. Many teams seemed a bit complacent in that regard - ESes make mistakes too, and if you think you deserve those points, you should try explaining your reasoning to the ES in a polite way. I was happy that I didnt see any Team B trying to use an identical device as their Team A, something I know I will see alot of next month judging in Florida. Whenever I am suspicious, I will always start questioning them and ask very specific questions trying to catch them in an "uhhhh" moment, at which point I would feel comfortable asking "Did you build and design this device?" and then perhaps a DQ is in order.
Scores: The scores were mostly what i expected, but I thought I would see more 1000+. I think the top 2-3 teams would have been in the top 10 at nationals with their device performances. There were no "perfect" scores. The teams that did the best had tasks that were very consistent and cleanly built. Teams that tried to force more tasks than they knew how to implement well failed miserably, and many lost over half the points they initially were going for. I saw teams with very nice devices capable of 8+ tasks fail because they didnt test their device enough. It is so much more important to do a 6 or 7 tasks well and know they will not go wrong at competition than have 9+ tasks that "worked at home".
Final remarks: My team and I were very strict on enforcing the rules, and it is likely that many teams will not face such strict judging until Nationals (unless youre from Florida, in which case I'll see you again soon). A few people stopped by after the last time block to ask my ES team about how they could improve. I think this was a fantastic idea by them and I think more teams should take advantage of such opportunities. All of the ESes at MIT are past competitors with very strong nationals experience and they just finished looking at every teams device/build. If you are looking for ways to improve, talking to them after the last time block is probably the best thing you can do. This goes for study/lab events too - I think most of the ESes (at MIT at least) would be more than happy to give you pointers on ways you can improve. I hope it was a good learning experience for all those that competed and you should feel welcome to email me with any questions you have.
Boca Raton Community High School Alumni
Florida State Tournament Director 2020
National Physical Sciences Rules Committee Memberkevin@floridascienceolympiad.org
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