I'm finding the ongoing discussion about the test portion of this event interesting, but thought I should chime in briefly in order to clear up what I think are some misconceptions. As I've mentioned before, I'm the National Event Supervisor for It's About Time and am always receptive to suggestions and constructive criticism regarding the event (in fact some of the suggestions people made earlier this summer were incorporated into this year's rules).
Unfortunately, other than at National's and the Ohio State tournament (which I also happen to run), I have no control over what other regional and state event supervisors do regarding this event. Thus my hope is this thread, and my comments in particular, will help steer people in the direction my colleagues and I on the National Physical Sciences Events committee have for this event.
1. This is a Physical Sciences event, not explicitly a Physics event. Likewise, it is NOT a Technology & Engineering event. Thus while there is a building component to the event, the 'knowledge testing' component is equally important and weighted the same. Essentially we are trying to include both 'practical' and 'theoretical' aspects related to the very broad field of 'time'.
2. As the description at the top of the event rules states, the test involves a wide range of issues, including "the concept of time, timekeeping, astronomy, physics, and mechanics". Thus the questions should cover an equally broad range, and not just be focused on physics-related calculations.
3. The soinc.org website has a great page outlining the purpose/mission of Science Olympiad (http://soinc.org/mission
). Of particular relevance here are the Science Olympiad Tournament goals, which include:
"To bring science to life, to show how science works, to emphasize problem solving aspects of science and the understanding of science concepts" and "To develop teamwork and cooperative learning strategies among students". Note that problem solving is only ONE part of the goals. Understanding concepts and cooperative learning strategies are also emphasized. While 'printing of facts' may not be viewed as 'science', the process of preparing your team to respond to such questions most definitely requires special learning strategies and teamwork, which furthers the SO mission. Thus what's 'hard' about these types of tests isn't necessarily what transpires during the actual testing period, but rather what happens in the months prior trying to prior for all the possibilities.
4. Where possible, we want to avoid testing 'rote memorization'. As an engineer, I can personally attest to the higher 'real world' value of being able to quickly research, reference, and synthesize information from a variety of sources in order to respond to an issue, compared to just 'number crunching'. By allowing a resource binder to be brought into the event we are trying to encourage those types of skills. I've consistently found that the best teams don't bring a huge unorganized binder into the event because there just isn't time to search through the thing. Rather they digest their research down into more manageable chunks, and in the process are LEARNING, which oftentimes allows them to 'mostly know' the answers, and thus usually only need to refine their response via looking at the binders.
Finally, I'd be interested in hearing what anyone who took the test or has gotten a copy of it since has learned as a result of it. For example, I bet a LOT of people had no idea what a 'dog watch' was, but as a result of this now probably know about the way time is kept on ships at sea (which might be of value if any of you end up joining the Navy;). I've already gotten some suggestions for specific 'sub-areas' of things related to Time that weren't covered last year and thus will probably show up on the tests this year;) And I'm always open to more suggestions.
I'll conclude with another quote from Ray Bradbury's Fahrenheit 451: "Most of us can't rush around, talk to everyone, know all the cities of the world, we haven't time, money or that many friends. The things you're looking for, Montag, are in the world, but the only way the average chap will ever see ninety-nine per cent of them is in a book. Don't ask for guarantees.
And don't look to be saved in any one thing, person, machine, or library. Do your own bit of saving, and if you drown, at least die knowing you were headed for shore."
PS: Saturnian, sorry to hear you were the one stuck in the elevator at OSU last year. The situation wasn't brought to my attention until well after all the teams had finished competing in the event and if I would have let your team rerun the device potion it would have been unfair to the other 39 teams since you would have had the advantage of approximately knowing what the selected time intervals were. I know your coach discussed the situation with the arbitrator and they reached the same conclusion. While we try to be as accomodating and fair as possible, we can't account for and resolve all possible situations.