On the whole, I had a great Nationals experience. I competed in five events, and three of them were better run than any previous tournament that I have attended this year. From my perspective, this reflects NSO's increasing commitment to involve alumni (with the Alumni Task Force) and consistently upgrade the quality of both the events that are chosen each year and the credibility of the national results.
In the coming years, I think NSO should adopt three initiatives to further these goals, and I write them in this forum because all three have been central in my experience in my events at Nationals this past year: 1) NSO should institute a more exhaustive review process for national tests, which should be relatively simple, as many invitationals already do this. As a result, distributions like Herpetology 2018 and Herpetology 2019 would rarely happen again, if at all. 2) NSO should update its event offerings so that there is a higher proportion of Computer Science-related events. Science Olympiad's mission statement claims to aim to create a "technologically-literate workforce," but the realities of the current 23 Division C events suggests a different story. As someone who is considering going into CS in college, I wish Science Olympiad had provided more opportunities for me to explore this avenue of science and STEM. It is time for Science Olympiad to invest heavily into updating its event slate so that it is more fit to equip budding scientists the skills that they need in 2019, not 1999. 3) NSO should update resources for study events so that it is more clear that competitors are expected to have a strong grasp of introductory college material, especially at the national level. As a consequence of MIT, SOUP, and Princeton (among others) raising the bar in terms of event difficulty and test quality, this change would primarily help teams that don't have the funds or opportunities to attend competitive invitationals or see those tests before Nationals. At the same time, it could protect competitors from event supervisors that have the urge to pull impossibly hard questions from graduate level resources. And, of course, everyone loves equity of opportunity in Science Olympiad.
Everyone expected the Astronomy team to put together a great test, and they delivered. I did Sections B & C, and I only found two questions to be 'confusing' (what "width at 20% max" meant and how to treat an annulus as compared to a sphere for Stefan-Boltzmann), but I seemed to have survived and done well enough. I took my time answering the explanation questions and regularly used the extra space at the bottom of the answer sheets to ensure that I conveyed all of my ideas, pacing myself so that I narrowly finished. Evidently, the two sections could have been a little bit longer if the supervisors wanted time management to differentiate teams, but I did enjoy the relaxed speed. Although I did not complete Section A myself, my partner finished with 5-10 minutes to spare, so that section could be extended if desired as well.
Compared to last year, I liked how there were more relatively more computational problems and that no one problem could "make or break" a top 10 score. The "width at 20% max" question probably came closest to being classified as this, but at least some of the latter sub-questions could be answered without having gotten the initial sub-question correct. The JS9 question was well-written, and I'm excited to see the program continue to develop over the next few years! Carroll and Ostlie's "Introduction to Modern Astrophysics" continues to be an indispensable resource, and I've loved how recent tests have not hesitated to jump into advanced concepts. Over the past three years, Astronomy C has been a life-changing experience for me, from MIT 2017 to the friendships to the research opportunities to now. I've had the fortune of having the best partners, mentors, and pupils that I could have ever asked for: my first partner and best friend welcomed me into the Science Olympiad community, and I hope that I have been at least a fraction of that for my second partner, Irene. Although my time competing has come to a close, I look forward to giving back to Astronomy C and Science Olympiad by supervising at MIT and beyond! 10/10
Circuit Lab (2):
Honestly, I'm surprised that the partial credit was generous enough for this result to happen. Although I was working at full speed the whole time, I did not get to do a few of the lengthier problems and did not attempt the second half of the lab. That said, my partner may may have done one of the problems that I didn't get to, so I'll be sure to thank him. Windu did an amazing job running the event, as has been discussed earlier. I found it interesting how the results compared to SOUP (1. Harriton, 2. New Trier), which is probably a reflection of the high test quality. Overall, I greatly enjoyed my time in Circuit Lab this past year. For a few months, I considered doing EECS in college, as this event helped me discover that circuits were really magical, cool, and incredibly hard. My only complaint is that I wish Science Olympiad had more opportunities for CS related events, which is why I wrote about "Suggestion (2)" above. In retrospect, because I'm not particularly gifted at solving circuit analysis or physics questions, I only achieved this result because I chose to practice solving problems from introductory circuit textbooks, such as Foundations of Analog and Digital Circuits, Electricity and Magnetism, Electric Circuit Analysis
, and Basic Engineering Circuit Analysis
. It feels weird to me that many teams have no idea that this is the expectation when competing at the highest level in Science Olympiad, so it is these problems (and my many, many failed solutions) that inspired "Suggestion (3)" above. Circuit Lab is not my strongest event, but I have enjoyed how it has been my most computationally challenging. In many ways, Astronomy feels more like a biology event because of the extensive readings, and Thermodynamics has been more about history, designing an optimal box, and the application of simpler concepts. I look forward to supervising Circuit Lab at competitions next year! 10/10
This event was really well run: the supervisor used syringes (+1), they gave us 50 minutes for the test (+1), and the test incorporated a wider variety of concepts and difficulties than any invitational test I had seen previously (+1). I did not have time to check over ~30 points worth of multiple choice, but the rest of the test was great. I found the most challenging problem to be calculating the change in enthalpy of Argon in kj/kg as a result of a change in temperature without a periodic table, but it was only 3 points so I probably decided on an erroneous method. Much like Circuit Lab, I'm surprised by this result. The supervisor did not give us a cotton ball (which I take responsibility for), and, consequently, we lost ~8 points on the build, as it cooled much more than expected, and then our prediction was off by a lot. However, it feels good to have gotten this medal for, if nothing else, my sophomore partner. It was her first year on varsity, and she, as evidenced by our placing in spite of our build, did a great job on the test and worked diligently all year. 10/10
Fermi Questions (9):
There isn't much to be said about this test: It was well run. On another day, I probably would have placed plus or minus 10 or 20 places, but that's just the nature of the event. Although the vast majority of the questions did not rely on memorized facts (or at least memorized facts that we had), one question did ask about the number of trees in the world, and that validated our 1000+ term quizlets, which was nice. In my experience, Fermi results have been been strongly associated with practice and time investment, so, to anyone reading this post whenever Fermi returns, practice as much and memorize as many facts as possible. 10/10
Chem Lab (15):
This was my first and last time ever competing in this event or any chemistry related competition; as a result, even though this was my lowest scoring event, I am entirely content with the result. While taking the test, I was honestly surprised that I knew how to do so many problems, given that I had only prepared intermittently for a few weeks. I tried an unconventional method for the second lab, and that likely lost us a lot of points, but otherwise, it was a fun time! My partner, a sophomore, was placed on the event a few months ago after the first senior member with competitive chemistry experience left the team, and it was great to see him step up and prevent the event from bombing. The future of the team is in good hands
I'm refraining from giving this event full marks because it was easier than it should have been, and, for the amount of work that we did, we should not have placed as highly as we did. 7/10.
Science Olympiad has given me everything: friends, opportunities, dreams, a community, and maybe even the foundations of a marketable skillset. One only has to go a few years back in my forums post history to see at least a little of my growth experience over the past few years
. With multiple senior members leaving the team in the middle of the season and abundant other teenage-related drama, I'm really proud of the strides that the team has made and how, in the face of all of that, they pulled off this remarkable finish at nationals. Sure, the nationals experience wasn't perfect, but my team and I enjoyed it more than previous years, and, to me, it's that improvement that counts. Goodbye for now Scioly, but see you again next year!