Currently, the most popular options are as follows:
- Having each team at an invitational run an event is by far the most common method of running invitational events. It makes it easier logistically for the invitational host, but does put some burden on attending teams. It is also common to see low quality tests where the team writing ends up winning or placing highly in the event, or the point differences between the top positions are mere decimals. While it is not the most ideal method, it is certainly much easier to accomplish than the other two I will list.
- The invitational hosts write all the tests. This is done at some invitationals; from personal experience, many of the tests at Churchill B and SOLVI C were written by their students or their alumni. It tends to improve upon the issue of low quality tests because the writers are more knowledgeable in the event, but comes with the downside of the students not being able to compete in the events. Of course it is not a problem if it is alumni writing like Div C kids writing for a B invitational, but at SOLVI, the invitational was run by the student organization (very well if I may add), thus preventing them, or at least their main teams, from competing themselves. It also does provide a bit more burden to the hosts having to prepare everything themselves.
- Most commonly used by university undergrad-led invitationals is the method of having a designated team of test-writers who will prepare each event. For this, most invitationals have a committee for selecting writers and a review committee to ensure that each test is written according to standards. This, of course, puts a lot more in the hands of the tournament directors to ensure that everything runs smoothly and the tests get in on time. This typically leads to fairly high quality events with the slight risk of it being too hard or too off-topic if the event isn't vetted well. This will be the focus of this post.
For Jeffrey Trail, we definitely lucked out on many things. I described a few of them in my post on the Jeffrey Trail/Kraemer Invitational thread, but I will restate the most relevant ones here:
- Our original plan was to have a team of test writers, many of whom based out-of-state, to prepare tests and communicate with us for what they need. Each school was assigned an event and the coaches communicated with the writers so the writers could give them instructions for getting materials, printing the tests, and grading them at the competition. We got lucky that one of the team member's parents offered to sponsor us by printing the tests at their print office, meaning that the "host schools" would only need to purchase any materials that were specifically requested by the writers.
- The materials costs for the host schools was cut down by being able to use materials from Portola HS, where the invitational was hosted. We were able to use some of their equipment for the lab events when needed and also reprint a page on each of the Dynamic Planet test packets because there was a big mistake on it (for some reason the answers on the MC were bolded).
- Jeffrey Trail was one of the biggest invitationals, with 73 teams registered and 69 there (one team pulled out last minute because of COVID-19 concerns). It was difficult fitting so many teams into rooms for events, but luckily all the rooms in each building were connected, allowing for proctors to roam around more easily.
- We had a ton of volunteers, probably upwards of 40 including many Div C competitors from various local schools and community volunteers such as PacificGoldenPlover with his amazing Ornithology test. These volunteers really came through, helping set up and run each event much more smoothly than I have seen at many invitationals and helping get grading done so fast that we had to cut the planned stalling short for the awards ceremony. We also had a lot of contacts to help write the tests courtesy of Mr. Evola and myself.
Obviously, this model may not be easily achieved by all tournaments because of a lack of one of those key bullet points mentioned above, particularly contact with volunteers to write and run events. However, I do foresee this issue getting a bit easier to handle with the advent of many alumni test writing teams like the A-Team, pika's 4N6 team, heck even DMAH at this point is becoming a test writing team having written a lot of tests for many of the invitationals I listed above. At that point after finding people from these groups to help write, the only part left is to get volunteers to help run the events.
There are two main reasons I bring this up right now:
- We are still unsure of what next season will bring to the table, but we can be certain that if this pandemic persists, there will be a great impact on SciOly tournaments. With this experience of having had tests written through online communication, we open up many doors that could potentially help in our search for a viable solution that will allow us to have a 2021 season. Beyond next season, the amount of students entering Div D increases each year, resulting in more opportunities for alumni to help out with local competitions. Their experience from competing would greatly benefit their SciOly community and could help with invitationals all over the place.
- There are many discussions about private test-trading (ooooh I said the t-word), particularly about whether or not invitationals should release tests publicly. With these newly founded groups of test writers, many of the tests they write are publicized on their websites or scioly wiki pages. This makes it much easier for tournaments to release materials as all they have to do is give a link to the writer's website or something of the sort. While many tournament directors see these tests as the reason that teams want to come to the invitational, having good quality tests that will later be released can change the priority of attendees from getting the tests to getting a good competition experience. Call me an idealist, but I feel like it would attract more teams than it would repel, as seen by MIT Invitational or GGSO.