How Hard is it to Win Nationals???

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Re: How Hard is it to Win Nationals???

Post by hmcginny » April 23rd, 2016, 4:18 pm

It's certainly not easy to win an event at nationals, but it's also not impossible. It takes a lot of preparation and good circumstances on the day of. Here's basically what you need to do. All anecdotes are real. This advice applies to all competition prep, but nationals in particular.

1) You need to be handed the test/environment you were expecting. For example, when Fermi Questions was an event, you knew exactly how a test was formatted and you could simulate that test environment (with differing questions) ad nauseam. It was possible to become consistent because you knew what you were facing. On the other hand, an event like Chem Lab can have wildly different lab setups (totally possible to be handed chemicals you've never seen/used) or could flip between stations or just a straight test or could have different test formats (I took tests that were all short answer and some that were all multiple choice, some required heavy computation, some were purely qualitative).

2) You need to be prepared for that environment/type of test. Pretty self-explanatory, but winning an event takes hours and hours of preparations, whether that's studying, testing a device or whatever. My biggest advice on that is to prepare for the environment you're expecting. So that means, don't test your gravity vehicle on an outdoor track when you know the event takes place inside. That means if you know your Thermodynamics test won't cover a certain topic, don't waste tens of hours studying that topic (personally done that). Don't only practice on a 100-piece k'nex WIDI (because it probably won't be k'nex, though that was definitely a good widi exercise generally). The goal is to walk into the room and be handed a test/testing area/whatever with a format and material that you were expecting.

3) You need to trust your partner. You both need to be well prepared and trust the other person to complete their portion of the event fairly independently, while still knowing each others strengths and weaknesses to know when to ask for help. Every event I ever medaled at nationals, I had an incredibly dedicated partner who studied as hard as I did and who I trusted a ton. That being said, I had events I didn't medal with partners like that, so ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

4) You need everything to play out perfectly. This is the big one. You need everything to go right. A random gust of wind to hit your glider/bottle rocket at the right moment, a question to show up on a test that you happened to have learned in your Chemistry class the week before, whatever it takes. I've seen so many events (on my own team alone) derailed by freak accidents. From a mousetrap snapping itself in half (RIP Mission) to accidentally thinking a tube was open instead of closed during a TPS frequency problem, you need things to play out perfectly. This is particularly true in lab and build events. You're almost always going to need one of your device's better runs to medal.

5) You need to execute. This ties in a lot with the last one. Prepare really hard so you have all the tools that you need, but all that really matters is what happens during your time slot. So focus and just execute. Don't be the team that forgets to load their trajectory (been there) or the team that messes up a really easy sounds of music question that both people know (also been there). You've prepped a ton and this is the one hour (or less for a build) that you have to shine. So make it count.

That's pretty much it. I wish someone had told me all this at some point, but I learned it over my senior year and I think it was pretty crucial to my personal success and to my team's success. I'm sure some of my event references are dated, but ah well.

Good luck at nationals everyone! I still can't bring those memories out of my head three years later.
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Re: How Hard is it to Win Nationals???

Post by zyzzyva980 » April 23rd, 2016, 9:23 pm

Gonna touch on some things right quick.
sciolyFTW_aku, in more words than this wrote:Winning nationals is really hard. You have to be extremely motivated and you should have a mentor guiding you. I know some people say that if you study and work really hard for that event, you'll do well, but in reality, you have to have someone that's experienced helping you throughout the way. [...] in order to win nationals, you have to eat, breathe, sleep SciOly
This isn't entirely true, but it helps. If you can't have a direct mentor on each event (most people can't), it's good to work with a teacher who teaches the subject when you can get a chance. Bring in some questions for them after school for topics about which you're confused.

I would disagree with "eat, breathe, and sleep SciOly," because I certainly didn't for my medal. I had AP tests and the ACT in the weeks before nationals. I was in jazz band and debate and forensic speech, which all met out of class. And I had four or five other events to work for as well. I put about half of my time into Sounds of Music, the event in which I medalled, because my partner and I agreed that it was our best shot. But I didn't roll over on the other events, either.

I think it's important to have something to keep your life in balance. Work hard, dedicate most of your time to SO, sure. Absolutely. I'm not disagreeing with the people that say you need to work hard to win at nats because you do need to work hard. But it's equally important to have other activities that you can fall back on to keep your life in focus and not burn out.

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sciolyFTW_aku wrote: In addition to working hard, you have to go into depth in your events. For example, for those of you who do Anatomy, studying the training handouts and powerpoints on soinc.org isn't enough; you have to take notes from other in-depth websites, textbooks, etc.
This should go without saying. If you want a medal, you should have a complete grasp of your subject. One thing that I find helps immensely is trying to explain the topic to someone else. It's one thing to learn the material, it's another thing to teach it. If you can teach it, you've probably got the necessary comprehensive grasp on the subject.
hmcginny wrote:4) You need everything to play out perfectly.
I agree with everything else in hmcginny's post because hmcginny has a boatload of medals and knows a thing or two. But I'd disagree about needing everything to play out perfectly. In some events, absolutely. Builds? Yeah. You need perfection. Study/lab events? Your objective in preparing for this event should be to set yourself up for success regardless of possible external factors. Reduce the number of variables that could prevent you from earning that medal. Study efficiently, so that you don't need perfection to medal.
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Re: How Hard is it to Win Nationals???

Post by Fanglin » April 24th, 2016, 10:09 am

Nationals is really weird when it comes to medaling. You can medal in some events that you would think you did horribly in, and you can not medal in an event where you think you kicked butt. Honestly, the way to win a medal at nationals, is just to be prepared for what the event will be like at nationals. It is not just about studying 24/7, but it is about having a good test strategy, and training yourself to be efficient. For study events, the tests are not that much harder than the state tests, but they are much longer. That is why you have to train with your partner to be able to finish the test in time. For build events, don't just stick with the design you have, and try to get it better, but think of new designs, and you might come across a better design. For lab events, you need to memorize the procedures, and other things, so you don't have to keep on referring to your notes, or binder. Also, if you come across a question you aren't sure about, then just give it your best shot, so you can finish the test in time.
For a team overall, you can get top ten actually quite easily. according to last year's scores, you needed to at least get 20th place in every event to get in the top ten. That is actually very doable, because I got 3rd, 9th, 17th, and 23rd at nationals last year, and we still got a bad overall score, because some events, if you make one mistake, it can be fatal.
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Re: How Hard is it to Win Nationals???

Post by LIPX3 » April 24th, 2016, 12:03 pm

Fanglin wrote:Nationals is really weird when it comes to medaling. You can medal in some events that you would think you did horribly in, and you can not medal in an event where you think you kicked butt. Honestly, the way to win a medal at nationals, is just to be prepared for what the event will be like at nationals. It is not just about studying 24/7, but it is about having a good test strategy, and training yourself to be efficient. For study events, the tests are not that much harder than the state tests, but they are much longer. That is why you have to train with your partner to be able to finish the test in time. For build events, don't just stick with the design you have, and try to get it better, but think of new designs, and you might come across a better design. For lab events, you need to memorize the procedures, and other things, so you don't have to keep on referring to your notes, or binder. Also, if you come across a question you aren't sure about, then just give it your best shot, so you can finish the test in time.
For a team overall, you can get top ten actually quite easily. according to last year's scores, you needed to at least get 20th place in every event to get in the top ten. That is actually very doable, because I got 3rd, 9th, 17th, and 23rd at nationals last year, and we still got a bad overall score, because some events, if you make one mistake, it can be fatal.
Just a question, what events where those? From the National results page at https://www.soinc.org/sites/default/fil ... ults15.pdf, it looks like the best Hamilton result was 6th. And if you look at https://www.soinc.org/sites/default/fil ... 15top6.pdf and do Ctrl+F and search Hamilton, the only place is 6th place in Can't Judge A Powder.

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Re: How Hard is it to Win Nationals???

Post by Fanglin » April 25th, 2016, 6:17 pm

LIPX3 wrote:
Fanglin wrote:Nationals is really weird when it comes to medaling. You can medal in some events that you would think you did horribly in, and you can not medal in an event where you think you kicked butt. Honestly, the way to win a medal at nationals, is just to be prepared for what the event will be like at nationals. It is not just about studying 24/7, but it is about having a good test strategy, and training yourself to be efficient. For study events, the tests are not that much harder than the state tests, but they are much longer. That is why you have to train with your partner to be able to finish the test in time. For build events, don't just stick with the design you have, and try to get it better, but think of new designs, and you might come across a better design. For lab events, you need to memorize the procedures, and other things, so you don't have to keep on referring to your notes, or binder. Also, if you come across a question you aren't sure about, then just give it your best shot, so you can finish the test in time.
For a team overall, you can get top ten actually quite easily. according to last year's scores, you needed to at least get 20th place in every event to get in the top ten. That is actually very doable, because I got 3rd, 9th, 17th, and 23rd at nationals last year, and we still got a bad overall score, because some events, if you make one mistake, it can be fatal.
Just a question, what events where those? From the National results page at https://www.soinc.org/sites/default/fil ... ults15.pdf, it looks like the best Hamilton result was 6th. And if you look at https://www.soinc.org/sites/default/fil ... 15top6.pdf and do Ctrl+F and search Hamilton, the only place is 6th place in Can't Judge A Powder.
Sorry, my bad, I was thinking top three, which our team got in in the Florida nationals, for solar system.
Last edited by Fanglin on May 1st, 2016, 10:18 pm, edited 1 time in total.
Problems are better pursued with General Electric GE90-115 engines.

2016 Nats:
Road Scholar:4th 8-)
Bottle Rockets: 9th
Meteorology: 11th
Gliders: 21st

(other events: Green Gen, Crime Busters, Helicopters, Hovercraft, Air trajectory)

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Re: How Hard is it to Win Nationals???

Post by asdfqwerzzz2 » April 26th, 2016, 1:54 am

I medaled last year in astronomy, and could have easily medaled in bungee drop if I used my actual calculations instead of playing extremely safe for the team score. For astronomy, I studied about three hours a day for a month in the summer, and studied at about 4 hours a day the week preceding nationals. I did all of my bungee drop preparation the first year of the event at about thirty minutes a week for the whole season, and did nothing the second year of the event. So pretty much, placing at nationals is definitely not impossible, and it really doesn't take as much effort as you'd expect.

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Re: How Hard is it to Win Nationals???

Post by Magikarpmaster629 » April 26th, 2016, 4:35 am

asdfqwerzzz2 wrote:I medaled last year in astronomy, and could have easily medaled in bungee drop if I used my actual calculations instead of playing extremely safe for the team score. For astronomy, I studied about three hours a day for a month in the summer, and studied at about 4 hours a day the week preceding nationals. I did all of my bungee drop preparation the first year of the event at about thirty minutes a week for the whole season, and did nothing the second year of the event. So pretty much, placing at nationals is definitely not impossible, and it really doesn't take as much effort as you'd expect.
How much did your partners work though? It doesn't seem like one person can carry an event on his/her own at nationals, especially in study events.
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Re: How Hard is it to Win Nationals???

Post by asdfqwerzzz2 » April 26th, 2016, 5:44 am

Magikarpmaster629 wrote:
asdfqwerzzz2 wrote:I medaled last year in astronomy, and could have easily medaled in bungee drop if I used my actual calculations instead of playing extremely safe for the team score. For astronomy, I studied about three hours a day for a month in the summer, and studied at about 4 hours a day the week preceding nationals. I did all of my bungee drop preparation the first year of the event at about thirty minutes a week for the whole season, and did nothing the second year of the event. So pretty much, placing at nationals is definitely not impossible, and it really doesn't take as much effort as you'd expect.
How much did your partners work though? It doesn't seem like one person can carry an event on his/her own at nationals, especially in study events.
I practiced much more than my partner in astronomy, but we always practiced together for bungee.

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Re: How Hard is it to Win Nationals???

Post by sciolyFTW_aku » April 26th, 2016, 6:23 pm

Magikarpmaster629 wrote:It doesn't seem like one person can carry an event on his/her own at nationals, especially in study events.
I wouldn't exactly say so. Last year, my partner had to test a lot for Wheeled Vehicle, so I had to study the bulk of the material for Anatomy (specifically Immune and Cardiovascular). But, I had to study quite a lot in order to cover all of the material in both systems. So, I wouldn't say you can't place in an event if you're studying the bulk of the material, but you have to make up for the lost time by studying extra hard :)

EDIT: BTW Magikarp, I have exactly 1/4th of the posts that you have! :D
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Re: How Hard is it to Win Nationals???

Post by samlan16 » April 27th, 2016, 5:30 am

sciolyFTW_aku wrote:
Magikarpmaster629 wrote:It doesn't seem like one person can carry an event on his/her own at nationals, especially in study events.
I wouldn't exactly say so. Last year, my partner had to test a lot for Wheeled Vehicle, so I had to study the bulk of the material for Anatomy (specifically Immune and Cardiovascular). But, I had to study quite a lot in order to cover all of the material in both systems. So, I wouldn't say you can't place in an event if you're studying the bulk of the material, but you have to make up for the lost time by studying extra hard :)

EDIT: BTW Magikarp, I have exactly 1/4th of the posts that you have! :D
I have to agree with Karp on this one. There is so much more that you have to do in preparation for nationals as opposed to any other level of competition that you cannot carry an event by yourself.

Had my team made it, even though I have done EV by myself all year, I would have gotten someone to help me test and make adjustments.
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