Poorly Run Event Stories

For anything Science Olympiad-related that might not fall under a specific event or competition.
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Re: Poorly Run Event Stories

Post by Name » April 1st, 2018, 1:16 pm

Fermi question NY: (state and regionals, they were the same format and style): probably slightly biased do to me doing extremely poorly, but the focus was mainly on random estimations with little calculations (I mean Fermi is about estimating but some more dimentional analysis, math problems, or just harder problems in general would've been nice. Anyone can estimate, harder problems differentiate between knowledge alot more and more estimating question leads to more luck). Some questions were hard to interrupt, and they weren't allowed to clarify anything. Length was decent (50 questions, in my opinion the cutoff until the test is too long), and they did specify units which is nice. At states, the Fermi testing room had some sharp noise, which was extremely annoying, but it wasn't too audiable inside the room
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Re: Poorly Run Event Stories

Post by BunsonTheBurner » April 1st, 2018, 2:46 pm

I was in experimental design and they didn't have enough materials so me and my team stood around for half the event and all we got was an extra 5 minutes. Also, the guy running the event was salty :(
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Re: Poorly Run Event Stories

Post by samlan16 » April 7th, 2018, 4:13 pm

TL;DR: State test was horribly written and executed. Lab task was not at all in line with this year's rules and was too simplistic for a high level tournament. End result was a bunch of angry C Divisioners and a guilty D Divisioner.

Yes, I am back from the gallows. Unfortunately, bearing the horrible story of the matsci test which I proctored today. There are many, many lessons here for any proctor who did not themselves compete in SO.

I will not explicitly say what tournament to protect myself, but you can probably figure it out.

The entire group running Materials Science began emailing about the exam a few days prior to the tournament. This, of course, is good practice. However, our event supervisor (ES) sent out the exam in this correspondence and I as a former competitor was appalled.

Under 2018 C Division rules, Materials Science must cover polymer science and specifically polymer chemistry. The rules enumerate that at this level, reaction mechanisms for polymer synthesis must be included. So in other words, this is the juicy, content heavy event for the chemistry track. It is almost guaranteed that the competitors for this spent hours studying organic chemistry in preparation.

The exam was on the density of 10 random (mostly non-polymer) cubes.

So we met for the obligatory dry run, and there I demonstrated how quickly I expected it to go in a (weak and failed) attempt to get the test fixed. (I finished solo in under 6 minutes. Lol) I express to the ES my concern that it's not enough to spread the scores out, with which she responded with utterly naive slander.

I quote her: "You will be SHOCKED with these kids. They just walk around and chat. They're so unfocused."

Then we get to the PPE talk. I say that we must enforce goggles, pants, etc. Just all the normal stuff for a chem event. Harmless, right?

Nope. It turned into this revelation as to why the test was the way it was: "They sent out these rules and it says our event is like polymer chemistry. But that's not what this is. I'm going with the rules from last year because it's more representative of what I think MSE is and what our department does. They won't have studied anyway."

No. No. No. This is not how things work. I feel the need to quote Chalker here, but the purpose of SO is to recruit students to STEM in general. That means giving a diverse view into STEM from technical writing to engineering to advanced natural sciences. It was never primarily a university recruiting tool because that would restrict students to those fields available within range of home.

Also, THE KIDS STUDIED. Believe me, they studied. Mom and Dad want them to go to MIT or get National Merit. They sure studied because they need to build their resumes. Or, more naturally, they're nerds who want to be passionate for this field. You should support young minds like that.

Needless to say, the students were pigeon that they were assumed to be THAT lackluster come Saturday.

My screw up here is that I did not directly speak up and say this test was not substantial enough for a tournament at this level. I was one of those kids who stayed after school studying organic chemistry, among other things. I know the effort it takes to earn a medal at higher levels of competition. Not to mention, I wrote an exam earlier this year. I could have modified those questions and donated them to the ES so we would comply.

But...I was scared. After all, I have to take 2 classes with her for my degree. And she is not one who takes kindly to criticism, especially from someone younger than her.

It was only by the keenness of the tournament director that anyone knew what was coming. She sent an email out to all the C Division coaches as soon as she learned the exam was out of bounds. Somehow, Materials Science was not thrown out.

To any competitors at this tournament today...I'm sorry that you were not respected during that event. I know that you're all much more intelligent and persistent than our ES gave you credit for. It burns to think that you guys deal with this kind of ageism to a larger extent than elsewhere in the country. I wish I could speak up against it, but I'm a 20-something and these guys hate me too.

-----

Here are the lessons for first time proctors:
1. If you did NOT compete in Science Olympiad (not Science Bowl, I mean the real deal), please know that our culture is different from what you'd expect. Students here are much more passionate and hardworking here than you would ever imagine, mainly because they want to earn scholarships, go to good colleges, and be well prepared for STEM careers. With high ranking schools, Science Olympiad is often a bigger time commitment than a varsity sport, requiring 10-20 hours per week. It's like taking 2-3 additional AP or dual enrollment classes. Do not accuse these students of being lackadaisical or directionless - they're not.

(a) Following this, write your exams, especially state level, with gusto. State is an HONOR to get to and is the qualifier for the prestigious national tournament. Don't underestimate these students. They have been seriously driving the bus home with their studies.

(b) If you're a professor, these are students who you absolutely want in your department. Do not alienate them with some bias or another. These are the minds you want to engage because they want to be at your level pronto.

2. The event theme is not yours to decide. The National Committee decides that. The rules are updated every year, and events which are not removed get amended somehow. Always, always, always use the edition of the rules dated for the current academic year. Use those and not your imagination. Not using the current rules is like telling a track kid to train for the 100m but then sending them to javelin for the meet.

3. To those assisting an event... do not be shy like I was. If there is a problem, either speak up to your ES or bring it to the tournament admin's attention.

(a) This is what I plan to do going forward to avoid drama. If you cannot be honest and upfront with your ES due to a conflict of interest, do not help with that event. Help with another. Maybe even be the ES yourself.

Off to Reddit to post on /r/tifu.
Remember, we are proud of every team that participated and you are all winners.

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Re: Poorly Run Event Stories

Post by kate! » April 8th, 2018, 8:28 am

This is really late, but at the Eastern Long Island Regional, the ecology test was a disaster. Not that it wasn't a good test itself...

... but it was almost exactly the same test at the South Shore Seawolves Invitational. As soon as my partner and I looked at the first page of the test, we recognized all the questions. We knew most the answers already and remembered the ones we got wrong, and we ended up getting second place (losing to the second place team at invitationals.) There were about 10 new questions or rephrased questions in this test, so we most likely messed up on one of those. Also, as I'm looking through the invitational and regional results, the majority of top 10 teams at regionals participated in the invitational as well. But overall, the test did not help us improve at all, because it was exactly like retaking the invitationals test.

Luckily, states has a different test writer, and the team that beat us at regionals was not the school's A team.
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Re: Poorly Run Event Stories

Post by UTF-8 U+6211 U+662F » April 8th, 2018, 10:36 am

samlan16 wrote:Off to Reddit to post on /r/tifu.
Still waiting on that ;)

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Re: Poorly Run Event Stories

Post by Anomaly » April 9th, 2018, 9:58 am

I always loved reading this thread, but never posted in it. However, this one time comes to mind...

Road Scholar (1) at Little Tiger Invitational - The test had a grand total of only 18 questions, none of them multi-part questions. It only included a highway map of New Jersey/Pennsylvania. The questions pretty much just included identifying symbols on a map and basically just finding things on the map. No calculations required whatsoever. My partner and I finished in about 10 minutes, and basically just talked the whole time. Then the event supervisor (who I believe was a high schooler at the place the invitational was being hosted) heard us talking and pretty much just started chatting with us. Eventually, things in the room got so loud that everyone in the room was talking with each other, and my partner was literally just saying all the answers aloud for the whole room to hear, but I don't think anyone believed those answers. We had a good time, but the test itself just wasn't good. The tiebreakers were random facts about highways and such, stuff that probably no one would know or have in their binder unless they were super prepared competitors. We ended getting first with a perfect score, but the test could have had a lot more effort put into it.
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Re: Poorly Run Event Stories

Post by Verdigris » April 10th, 2018, 5:04 am

Just realized I never posted about Remote Sensing C at Regionals...

The test was written by someone who claimed to be an expert in the field of remote sensing. While this may have been true, the test was only 11 questions long- 5 or so of them were multiple choice, and all of the multiple choice questions had at least one joke/throwaway answer. I mentioned this to my coach (who is also the regional director) afterwards, and she said that the person in question had never written a Scioly test before.

@ First time proctors, please make sure your test has enough questions to take up the entire time allotted (especially in tests that don't have time as a tiebreaker), and that the questions are challenging enough to separate the teams that studied from the teams that didn't.

Luckily, Remote Sensing C at State was a lot better, according to my teammates (I couldn't compete in it at State due to scheduling conflicts).
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Re: Poorly Run Event Stories

Post by wzhang5460 » April 15th, 2018, 10:54 am

NYS Div B States Mystery Design was disappointing.

The event had the worst scoring rubric possible. We were given 12 paper cups and nothing else and asked to build a tower at least 1.5m tall. If you stacked all the cups end to end, it would only be about 1.2m or so. The formula for the scoring was the number of cups you did not alter, (cut, rip, tears count as altering) plus the square root of the tower height (If it was below 1.5m, the height would count as 0), divided by the time block you were in. (each time block was ten or so minutes, for a total of 4 time blocks). It was literally impossible to get a freestanding 1.5 m tower, so much so that only 2 teams in the entire competition managed to do so.

Eventually, this turned into a "who could give up the fastest" sort of challenge. The longer you went, the more cups you would alter and the more time you would use. We realized nobody would build up to 1.5m (the majority of the height scores would be 0) and gave up in the 2nd time block with 6 cups not altered, with a final score of 3. However, if a team gave up in the 1st time block with no altered cups, they would've ended up with a score of 12 and easily top 5.

We placed 11th, which isn't that bad of a bomb considering the event, but I wish we would've gotten 10thso we could get a medal for giving up.
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Re: Poorly Run Event Stories

Post by sciencepeeps » April 16th, 2018, 5:17 am

wzhang5460 wrote:NYS Div B States Mystery Design was disappointing.

The event had the worst scoring rubric possible. We were given 12 paper cups and nothing else and asked to build a tower at least 1.5m tall. If you stacked all the cups end to end, it would only be about 1.2m or so. The formula for the scoring was the number of cups you did not alter, (cut, rip, tears count as altering) plus the square root of the tower height (If it was below 1.5m, the height would count as 0), divided by the time block you were in. (each time block was ten or so minutes, for a total of 4 time blocks). It was literally impossible to get a freestanding 1.5 m tower, so much so that only 2 teams in the entire competition managed to do so.

Eventually, this turned into a "who could give up the fastest" sort of challenge. The longer you went, the more cups you would alter and the more time you would use. We realized nobody would build up to 1.5m (the majority of the height scores would be 0) and gave up in the 2nd time block with 6 cups not altered, with a final score of 3. However, if a team gave up in the 1st time block with no altered cups, they would've ended up with a score of 12 and easily top 5.

We placed 11th, which isn't that bad of a bomb considering the event, but I wish we would've gotten 10thso we could get a medal for giving up.
Wow... that is absolutely horrible. I’ve never seen an event run like that.
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Re: Poorly Run Event Stories

Post by windu34 » April 16th, 2018, 6:42 am

Verdigris wrote:Just realized I never posted about Remote Sensing C at Regionals...

The test was written by someone who claimed to be an expert in the field of remote sensing. While this may have been true, the test was only 11 questions long- 5 or so of them were multiple choice, and all of the multiple choice questions had at least one joke/throwaway answer. I mentioned this to my coach (who is also the regional director) afterwards, and she said that the person in question had never written a Scioly test before.

@ First time proctors, please make sure your test has enough questions to take up the entire time allotted (especially in tests that don't have time as a tiebreaker), and that the questions are challenging enough to separate the teams that studied from the teams that didn't.

Luckily, Remote Sensing C at State was a lot better, according to my teammates (I couldn't compete in it at State due to scheduling conflicts).
I wrote the state test ;)
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