This test had the caliber of a nationals test which last year's ecology test lacked. I also liked that we had to choose all that applied on the multiple choice, so we could prove the true degree of our know-how. However, I am a bit curious as to why the test did not appear to follow the rules manual. There was no hint of alderflies as an indicator species on the rules manual, so why was it being tested? Conversely, is it typical to see absolutely nothing about the "state and nationals only" topics, which were, well, reserved for state and nationals? Certain questions also required merely luck to answer as they were vague on what content they really wanted us to demonstrate. The question asking for the "form" of pollution involved in river acidification could elicit a spectrum of answers, like pH pollution, non-point pollution, mine drainage pollution, acidity pollution, SO2
pollution, and so forth. All such responses would be scientifically sound, but may have been off-target for what the test writer was looking for. A solid test in the end though.
Sounds of Music
The physics section of this test was primarily usage of formulas, with only basic algebra required. I wish there was more content concerning concepts in physics, so that it would be less about who could plug and chug fastest. There are many fascinating subtleties about acoustics that I spent much time on, and I would have preferred to see a test oriented towards physics as physicists see it, rather than calculator exercises for students. Nevertheless, this was not too bad; the section on musical instruments, however, is my biggest complaint. By zooming in on uncommon instruments, teams with an understanding of the big ideas in organology were at a disadvantage in comparison to teams who happened to have the correct obscure knowledge in their binders (although I suppose this is the purpose of the binder). The coverage of music theory was just right, neither too obscure nor too trivial. The pitch score test went slightly awry, as the tuning app couldn't even pick up our instrument correctly at first(!), although after some fiddling things worked. The event supervisors were very nice (except for a volunteer who acted rudely to my partner :(
)—and it was exciting to talk to Colin Barber in person! A well-run event, but it was good and not great.
The test portion of circuit lab was excellent. The problems challenged me and my partner to exert our reasoning skills with full force, while pacing our work against the ticking time. It was difficult, but I found the problems very intriguing. The lab portion seemed easy at first, but it was dismaying to me that the main objective of the lab portion hinged so tightly upon sifting and sorting through the jumble of resistors given to us in a plastic bag. I am sure that as with me, a great many teams knew how to do the lab, but by chance started by pulling the "wrong" resistors from the bag—the ones with resistance values that I wouldn't end up using on the lab—and so they couldn't finish within the allotted 15 minute crunch time. I also enjoyed that one of the volunteers told silly jokes before we entered the testing room
. Definitely a brilliant test, although the lab was more lacking.
Although this was my first national tournament, I've discovered the experience to be thoroughly exciting and fulfilling. The dorms were good, the food excellent, the tests challenging, and all event rooms walkable. Violin music during awards seemed perhaps incompatible with the spirited vivacity of the crowd, and the opening ceremony could have been better executed, but these were minor in detracting from the tournament. I am very happy to have been a part of SONT 2019, and my team of the most hilarious bricks, bananas, bonobos, and best friends made the entire journey to, in, and out of Cornell a worthwhile part of my path through SciOly and high school. And it was fun to meet and compete with teams across the nation!