Nationals Bid Discussion

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Re: Nationals Bid Discussion

Post by Riptide » April 12th, 2019, 1:10 pm

primitive_polonium wrote:
JonB wrote:
JonB wrote:

THIS. If the events become even more complex, then the difficulty of finding quality writers will decrease even more (and, arguably, it is not very good at many regional/state competition, with some exceptions).
A solution I can see to this is standardized exams, which takes off the stress of finding good writers, but that involves everyone holding their regionals tournaments on the same day, and there is a risk of leakage.
Maybe standardized tests by weekend? (like a different test set every week)
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Re: Nationals Bid Discussion

Post by pb5754 » April 12th, 2019, 1:15 pm

Riptide wrote:
primitive_polonium wrote:
JonB wrote:

THIS. If the events become even more complex, then the difficulty of finding quality writers will decrease even more (and, arguably, it is not very good at many regional/state competition, with some exceptions).
A solution I can see to this is standardized exams, which takes off the stress of finding good writers, but that involves everyone holding their regionals tournaments on the same day, and there is a risk of leakage.
Maybe standardized tests by weekend? (like a different test set every week)
But what about states (like NJ) who have their tournaments on weekdays?
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Re: Nationals Bid Discussion

Post by Riptide » April 12th, 2019, 1:27 pm

pb5754[] wrote:
Riptide wrote:
primitive_polonium wrote:
A solution I can see to this is standardized exams, which takes off the stress of finding good writers, but that involves everyone holding their regionals tournaments on the same day, and there is a risk of leakage.
Maybe standardized tests by weekend? (like a different test set every week)
But what about states (like NJ) who have their tournaments on weekdays?
I guess they would have to have their own special test set or move the tournaments to the weekend if possible.
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Re: Nationals Bid Discussion

Post by builderguy135 » April 12th, 2019, 1:35 pm

Riptide wrote:
primitive_polonium wrote:
JonB wrote:

THIS. If the events become even more complex, then the difficulty of finding quality writers will decrease even more (and, arguably, it is not very good at many regional/state competition, with some exceptions).
A solution I can see to this is standardized exams, which takes off the stress of finding good writers, but that involves everyone holding their regionals tournaments on the same day, and there is a risk of leakage.
Maybe standardized tests by weekend? (like a different test set every week)
What about builds and hybrids? Gym size? Type of sand for boomi? Track length? Target time?
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Re: Nationals Bid Discussion

Post by Unome » April 12th, 2019, 2:19 pm

Honestly, standardized tests is probably the one thing that would drive me away from SO.

Event supervisor quality is improving at an extremely fast rate. Nationals test quality has jumped tremendously in the last 10 years (along with the quality of the National Tournament in general) - just look at past test packets to see this. It's a problem for sure, but it's getting much better very quickly.

I agree that some events are a little... unusual. That said, trialing an event is absurdly difficult. Georgia tried to run trials this year. Div B got event supervisors literally the day of the tournament, and Div C ended up having to cancel the trial event because no one was willing to run it. Inquiry's rotating events are frequently cited as problematic - often accurately, in my opinion - but there are still very few options going around.

Concur with nicholasmaurer, Nationals will never split divisions. It's far too impractical. I suspect the stable near-future system is either the current setup, or the current setup with a few more teams. That said, I don't think expansion to 66 is as unlikely as some others have stated.
nicholasmaurer wrote:I would estimate the odds of them splitting the national tournament into two separate tournaments at zero. Ignoring whether it is an appealing idea (I don't think it is), consider the practical aspects. It is already incredibly difficult for NSO to identify willing host sites - the direct costs to the university hosting can easily reach one or two million dollars (which is not reimbursed by NSO). The costs that are covered by NSO (e.g. much of the awards ceremony) would increase to cover duplicate ceremonies. Additionally, most of the senior ranks of the volunteer organization (national committee, arbitrators, scoring, rule committee chairs) is shared between the divisions. Those individuals cannot be expected to attend two separate tournaments.
Are costs really that high now? 2016 financials were posted somewhere publically, and were something like $500k. Discussions from the mid-2000s indicate costs somewhere in the range of $250-400k. Then again, since a large chunk of the university costs are in-kind donations such as free use of facilities. Based on the unusually high dorms package price for 2018 and 2019, I could see those costs being larger than usual as well.
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Re: Nationals Bid Discussion

Post by BrownieInMotion » April 12th, 2019, 4:07 pm

lumosityfan wrote:(to syo's inquiry: quizbowl does have 2 nationals for high school students, PACE NSC and NAQT HSNCT and does have numerous tournaments very much like invitationals. In addition, there really aren't any big-time tournaments relative to nationals in qb (although Harvard's and Hunter College High School's tournaments come fairly close when it comes to out-of-state teams coming as well as the Texas Invitational) and open tourneys are usually held for college students and adults, less so for high school students). I guess if I may: the thing I like about quizbowl that could help Science Olympiad so much is that they care about outreach and wanting to make a good name for prospective participants. Thus, they ensure that every question set is written well, that moderators enforce the rules properly, and that tournaments have as little hiccups as possible. In addition, there's a concerted outreach effort to reach teams that have never played qb before to get them involved, and it has paid dividends. I think if we are to grow SciOly we need to have more of a outreach presence through emailing teams, getting the word out there, and making sure our tournaments are run as well as possible so that those teams will not be turned away but rather will stay.)
Just for some context, the PACE NSC has a field of 96 teams every year while HSNCT has a field of ~350 teams in recent years. There is also an all-star championship called NASAT where the best high school players from each state form teams and compete in a tournament, as well as an individual player championship, IPNCT, where players compete solo. Middle school quizbowl nationals, MSNCT. is also an entirely different event, and there's also a small school championship, SSNCT, to recognize schools with fewer students.

Qualifying for nationals in quizbowl is also fairly easy. For PACE, just place within the top 25% of the field at any certified tournament at any point during the year. For HSNCT, the top 15%. So powerhouse schools with multiple teams of good players still can send several teams to nationals, but there are only a few tournaments which have fields large enough for that to be feasible, and many of those tournaments are split into novice and varsity divisions, so those powerhouse teams are not qualifying for nationals at the expense of newer teams. Qualifying doesn't reserve your spot at nationals, though, you have to register before the field fills up and that's on a first come first serve basis. Generally the field doesn't fill up for several months, so teams have plenty of time to sign up, or, if they don't qualify the first time, keep trying throughout the year to get better and qualify at their next tournament.

My two cents: Purely in theory, I believe if Science Olympiad nationals were split between Division B and C and had some kind of similar threshold system, where placing in the top n% at any invitational tournament qualifies your team, qualifying for nationals itself might become less prestigious, but placing high and medaling at nationals would mean a lot more, because all the best teams in the country are there, not just the best from each state.

Obviously quizbowl and Science Olympiad are very different activities, and quizbowl is certainly not without its problems, but I don't see why having more teams at nationals would be a negative. Having the same school represent a state/region year after year doesn't really sound like diversity or outreach to me. I understand there are logistical or financial roadblocks preventing Soinc from implementing such a radical shift towards a quizbowl-like system or handing out more bids in general, but I really disagree with the idea that doing so would be wrong in principle.
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Re: Nationals Bid Discussion

Post by nicholasmaurer » April 12th, 2019, 4:45 pm

Unome wrote:
nicholasmaurer wrote:I would estimate the odds of them splitting the national tournament into two separate tournaments at zero. Ignoring whether it is an appealing idea (I don't think it is), consider the practical aspects. It is already incredibly difficult for NSO to identify willing host sites - the direct costs to the university hosting can easily reach one or two million dollars (which is not reimbursed by NSO). The costs that are covered by NSO (e.g. much of the awards ceremony) would increase to cover duplicate ceremonies. Additionally, most of the senior ranks of the volunteer organization (national committee, arbitrators, scoring, rule committee chairs) is shared between the divisions. Those individuals cannot be expected to attend two separate tournaments.
Are costs really that high now? 2016 financials were posted somewhere publically, and were something like $500k. Discussions from the mid-2000s indicate costs somewhere in the range of $250-400k. Then again, since a large chunk of the university costs are in-kind donations such as free use of facilities. Based on the unusually high dorms package price for 2018 and 2019, I could see those costs being larger than usual as well.
I'm obviously not privy to the exact budget for the past few national tournaments, but these are the rough estimates I have been told. Consider just the basketball arena that is typically used for awards. I know that renting one of the two here at Ohio State would cost $500k. To be fair, rental fees likely overestimate the true operating cost to the university, but large venues are extremely expensive to operate due to utilities, security, custodial, etc. The use of over a hundred classrooms accompanied by numerous gyms, atriums, and other venues quickly adds up. I'd estimate that planning alone would cost the university hundreds of employee hours.

Even if the total direct cost is only $500k as you recall, that is still a tremendous expense for a university. While some would claim this is excellent advertising for admissions, how many participants actually end up considering host universities for their college choices? I doubt a single one of my students applied to any of the national tournament host sites they've competed at in past years. The incentive is much stronger for colleges to host regional or state tournaments, as these colleges know that all of the participants will be from their area.
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Re: Nationals Bid Discussion

Post by primitivepolonium » April 12th, 2019, 5:22 pm

nicholasmaurer wrote:
Even if the total direct cost is only $500k as you recall, that is still a tremendous expense for a university. While some would claim this is excellent advertising for admissions, how many participants actually end up considering host universities for their college choices? I doubt a single one of my students applied to any of the national tournament host sites they've competed at in past years. The incentive is much stronger for colleges to host regional or state tournaments, as these colleges know that all of the participants will be from their area.
That's why I was so shocked to see Cornell hosting. No offense to the previous universities, but Cornell is actually on a lot of people's radars and doesn't need SciOly advertising to get top students.
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Re: Nationals Bid Discussion

Post by chalker » April 12th, 2019, 7:29 pm

Hi all - interesting thread you got here. Thought I might chime in on a few things with my 'unofficial insider' perspective.
The TLDR is that while it's great to brainstorm and debate ideas, there are SO many practical aspects that prevent major changes / implementations. But it's great to be energized and help improve this wonderful thing called Science Olympiad. I encourage anyone to translate that energy into helping at the local / state / or national level.

Some general comments / thoughts:

-SO has a well-defined vision/mission/values that drives all major decisions / events and should be kept in mind. It's available here: https://www.soinc.org/about/mission My general summary is we want to improve / increase participation in STEM and we do it via various events such as tournaments and workshops.
-SO is one of the largest, if not the largest, STEM based extracurricular activity in the US. 8,000 teams across all 50 states, competing in 450 different events. Only 1.5% of those make it to the National Tournament.
-SO National office is a relatively modest size. As a non-profit you can look at their annual financial disclosure (990 form) here: http://990s.foundationcenter.org/990_pd ... 09_990.pdf (You can also look at most of the individual state org forms too) In 2016 total expenses were about $1.7M. That may seem like a lot, but it's not in relation to the numbers in the previous bullet.
-The vast majority of thousands of people associated with SO are volunteering their time. Very few actually get paid for doing this.
-The direct costs to run a national tournament is typically in the $500K range, but can vary widely. The in-kind contributions are probably about the same amount.
-The # of teams at the national tournament is partially limited by tradition but more limited by facility constraints (i.e. # dorm / hotel rooms available, # of classrooms/labs, size of the arena). This is particularly true at many of the 'smaller' universities that have hosted the tournament.
-There isn't a large competition or waiting list of universities wanting to host a national tournament - to the contrary, the pool is very small and a lot of work goes into 'courting' the administration of institutions.
-National tournament planning is typically a ~3 year process. Hence many of the major decisions are made several years in advance.
-The National organization doesn't have much role in Regional and State tournaments. Those are all locally controlled and hence why there is such a wide range of styles and processes.

Almost all the ideas I've seen mentioned on this thread are ones that I've heard discussed before within the ranks of tournament directors and event supervisors. The key issue is that there are a LOT of idea, but we don't really have time / resources to serious consider or try but a small fraction of them. For almost all of us this is a passion we pursue in addition to our 'real jobs' and we sometimes struggle just to handle the status quo operations due to all the various challenges with running a ton of events with a ton of unskilled volunteers. We do tend to try new things out at the regional and state level, and then the best ideas naturally filter up to the national level and are shared amongst everyone. A good example of this is the plethora of team registration and tournament scoring systems available.

Finally, it's extremely disappointing to hear statements about things like 'nepotism' and 'stagnation' at the National level. As anyone who has actually engaged with us would know, we are happy to have people involved at the national level. The problem we often face is finding people that are willing and able to commit the significant amount of time that's needed. We are doing the best we can with the limited resources we have and are always open to suggestions. But suggestions without actions or resources are extremely hard to implement.

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Re: Nationals Bid Discussion

Post by nicholasmaurer » April 12th, 2019, 8:06 pm

chalker wrote: As anyone who has actually engaged with us would know, we are happy to have people involved at the national level.
This has certainly been my experience when working with most volunteers for the national organization.
chalker wrote:The problem we often face is finding people that are willing and able to commit the significant amount of time that's needed. We are doing the best we can with the limited resources we have and are always open to suggestions. But suggestions without actions or resources are extremely hard to implement.
I think the perception of "nepotism" or "stagnation" may stem from what I would refer to as volunteer fatigue. Even at the regional level, I have grown more and more skeptical/jaded about whether people who initially volunteer are actually going to follow through and execute on their promises. Quality volunteers and supervisors are unfortunately less common than one might hope. Given the importance of the national tournament, and the almost exclusively volunteer nature of Science Olympiad, I can see "volunteer fatigue" playing a role in skepticism towards brand new alumni trying to get involved at the national level.

Have there been missed opportunities to engage with talented alumni in the past? Yes, I think so and I believe the national organization is more aware than ever of those opportunities. That is why efforts such as the Alumni Taskforce have been created in recent years.

As general advice, I would encourage alumni interested in having a voice at the state or national level to start small and work your way up. Help coach a team, volunteer as an event supervisor for invitationals/regionals in your area, help plan a tournament at your college, etc. Those that do so well, and demonstrate the necessary commitment, build credibility and frequently get invited to take progressively bigger roles in the organization. I know I have. While you might very well be just as good - or better - of a supervisor, rule writer, tournament director etc. than those currently volunteering, the people already in those roles have demonstrated year after year that they will show up and do the (often thankless) job.
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