Roundtable Transcript: Study Events (December 02, 2017)

Welcome to our fourth roundtable of the season! See the channel topic for how to send us questions. Let's have our panelists introduce themselves!
JohnRichardsim
Hello Sciolyers! I'm Lumosityfan and I am a current junior at Columbia University and former competitor at John P. Stevens in Edison, NJ! I'm very excited to see what I can do to help you understand astronomy more and the other study events as well.
Lumosityfan
Hi everyone! I am Richard Xu, the captain of Scarsdale High School. I compete in Astronomy, Remote Sensing, and I'm excited to talk about all the calculation components!
raxu
I'm a junior from Blue Valley North High School in Kansas.  I started the team at my school my sophomore year, and I've been doing SO since 7th grade (with the exception of 9th grade, because my high school did not yet have a team).  I specialize in the bio events minus anatomy plus experimental design, and my favorite events are the ID events (Herps and Ento!).
SOnerd
Hi! I'm Neil Mehta, captain of RCMJHS's Science Olympiad team. I've been doing SO since 7th grade, and love microbe mission in particular.
NeilMehta
I'm Null, I just graduated from UCSB and formerly competed in Southern CA Scioly. I now help run the CA Regional and State tournament.
Null
Hi. I'm Unome, a senior at Chattahoochee High School in Georgia, currently spending way too much time organizing our invitational. I usually do whichever events no one else wants to do, and usually a lot of them.
Unome
MrKrebs asks: "What are some recommended textbooks for ecology?"
JohnRichardsim
I'm not the best person to answer because I picked up the event last year so my recommendations may be a little advanced.
raxu
I think I've seen teammates of mine using Cain and Bowman, but I can't say for sure how useful it's been for them.
JohnRichardsim
I used Smith's Ecology and Field Biology, which was helpful but a little advanced.
raxu
If you're just starting out with Ecology, Campbell is always a good place for at least the basics, plus nearly every school will have it.
Unome
^ campbell biology is AMAZING!
raxu
Campbell's biology is THE Holy Bible of Biology
merge
(I'm not sure how in-depth Campbell goes, it's been a while since I've read it)
Unome
I think there’s the Miller Environmental Science which is ok too.
Null
For ecology, I've never really focused too much on reading a textbook (I just get my information from the internet and practice tests), but I think Campbell's would be a good place to start.  I found a test bank for Campbell's, and most of the questions in the test bank (eco chapters) are very commonly seen on ecology tests.
SOnerd
caesar asks: "For Astronomy, where do you recommend starting to research the DSOs?"
JohnRichardsim
Well what I like to do is first look at the pictures. You can use the Astronomy Picture of the Day and the Chandra website (www.apod.gov and www.chandra.edu) to learn more about the DSOs. From there you can tie what you've learned from those objects to the general trends in stellar evolution, helping you better understand those trends.
Lumosityfan
I would start with the Chandra Webinar: http://chandra.harvard.edu/edu/olympiad.html. It gives you the basics about each of the DSOs and why they are special.
raxu
1. pictures 2. wikipedia, that will give you a good overview for the object. After that I tend to just google the name and write down a lot.
Unome
that too
Lumosityfan
^ seconded
Unome
and also lots of flashcards
Lumosityfan
^ everything above. I also keep the images neatly organized with a table so I can refer to them later :)
raxu
also make sure to get multiple wavelengths
Lumosityfan
^^^
raxu
and take every image I can off of google images (after verifying that they're actually the right object)
Unome
Event supervisors may ask you to look at an image in X-rays for instance and ask you to identify the object, and get used to objects upside-down as well (after all there is no south in space :) )
Lumosityfan
yes, add different wavelengths to your search and be able to explain why the wavelengths are used
Unome
^and different features (like for instance how dust is impermeable to infrared)
Lumosityfan
Nano asks: "what is the most effective way to study the anatomy of a system?"
JohnRichardsim
For pure anatomy, I like putting together a powerpoint with units of three slides: the first slide and third slide are a diagram from google images, unaltered. The second slide contains the same diagram with labels replaced by numbers in MS paint. This way, the first slide lets me observe a diagram and try to memorize it, the second slide lets me quiz myself, and the third slide lets me correct myself.
JohnRichardsim
For basic [insert biology-related science], first go to Campbell's. But since I don't do Anatomy, I can't speak for effective studying.
merge
Also for most study events there are new powerpoints on soinc.org. Make sure you check them out!
raxu
^and lots of great tests
Lumosityfan
caesar asks: "Also, from my teammate: similar question but for Microbe: Where do you recommend starting to research the 50+ Microbial diseases and the possible questions they ask?"
JohnRichardsim
Microbe is essentially a binder event in the body of a notesheet event, so you really want to memorize each disease individually and be comfortable with all of them. I’d recommend starting with CDC, Wikipedia, a nd then going to microbewiki
NeilMehta
I'm going to assume that the teammate knows basic cell biology. If not, first, REFER TO CAMPBELL'S.
merge
Yes, microbewiki is a very good general information wiki
merge
also don't forget to look at images
Unome
I strongly recommend Tortora Microbiology (Pearson)
NeilMehta
^^ like unome said
NeilMehta
A lot of tests ask to identify images, and having a small row of images of all the diseases can be a lifesaver. Half inch square pictures often do the trick - make sure to remove what you know.
NeilMehta
I think that the strategy is to first get used to the pathogens that cause all the diseases. There will usually be questions that ask you to link the causative agent with a group of pathogens, and being able to do that fast is useful. Anyway, my go-to text is Murray's Medical Microbiology
merge
^ agreed, I have several rows of small images (~3-4 per disease) on my notesheet
Unome
I actually don't like to use pictures, but most of the tests I've encountered thus far draw them from commonly found images anyway.
merge
bmd234 asks: "What are the specific features we need to know about for solar system?"
JohnRichardsim
My memory of Solar is a little fuzzy... I remember craters being featured a lot and also a bunch of atmosphere question for Venus. Reading about each of the objects is also helpful. NASA has many very helpful sites! You can find them at https://www.soinc.org/sites/default/files/uploaded_files/SolarSystem1718AnnotatedLinks.pdf :) try the webinar as well.
raxu
Although I cannot say for sure since I am not very familiar with the current topic for Solar System, the rules don't do a very good job of specifying certain features. For this reason, I would recommend focusing on the most prominent ones (especially on Mars since there's lots of images), and hoping whatever event supervisor doesn't ask about any esoteric ones.
JohnRichardsim
One more thing: I remember questions about what we have done to explore these planets being very prominent.
raxu
In addition, supervisors may just ask the general name of a feature (e.g., given a picture of Lacus Aestatis of the moon, be able to identify it as a lacus and describe how it formed)
JohnRichardsim
caesar asks: "There is a hot debate at my team about whether you want to cram everything onto the sheet or try to memorize some key facts and use cheat sheets sparingly for esoteric details. Thoughts?"
JohnRichardsim
I really believe it depends on the topic. There are memorization-heavy topics and there are less memorization-heavy topics, so depending on the event, there could be many types of notesheets.
merge
while I never did a ton of cheat sheet stuff (lol I was able to use a laptop :) ) I would say use the cheat sheet/laptop as a basis. Put in as much as you can so that you're ready for whatever comes up but still put in some time to memorize the essentials, especially things like how do you use whatever's in your cheat sheet, otherwise you'll just be rambling around wondering how to use it and by the time you've truly figured it out oops time's up
Lumosityfan
truly a question for the ages...
Unome
I like to put as much as I can on my notesheet. This is partially because, since I started out doing events with little notesheet space, I effectively never run out of space.
Unome
Just put the essentials, I’ve watched so many students put their cheatsheats in like 5 pt font and stare at it trying to look for an answer they don’t have
Null
Just remember to constantly update your cheatsheet to replace any information you've gotten familiar with
merge
ey 5 pt is nothing :P
Unome
but yeah, you will get many diverging opinions on this
Unome
it's really how you feel best about it, YMMV
Lumosityfan
it depends on how you approach events
Unome
^
Lumosityfan
I've proctored these events for 4 years and can say, only put the things you're having trouble with, constants, formulas. I think making one helps you remember, but don’t put everything on it.
Null
The ultimate purpose of a cheatsheet is to remind you things that you wouldn't be able to memorize. If you can memorize it, don't add it, or take it off. If you can't, keep it.
merge
Ten asks: "How would you recommend practicing calculations for astronomy?"
JohnRichardsim
I will address calculation components in general, but use Astro as an example :) So many events have a calculation component: Ecology's biodiversity, Remote's Radiation laws, Astro, etc. These are usually short-answer problems that are worth quite a few points and can seem daunting at first (if you can solve them consistently, it's a good advantage!) I recommend first finding the formulas associated with your topic, and plugging in basic values to see what happens. Take Wien's Law. I would try plugging in sun's temperature into it to find that the peak wavelength is about green, which roughly makes sense. Then, try problems on practice tests related to the topic on different practice tests. Continuing with the Astro example, now you can practice with problems referring to "peak wavelength" :)  Finally, I would come up with problems myself and try to solve them. Creating problems is just as helpful an exercise as solving problems!
raxu
^yeah lots of practice. Focus on each step at a time and understand why those steps are the way they are, and know that for a lot of problems there are pre-made steps. Like distance calculations for instance: you know you need the distance modulus if you're given magnitudes, stuff like that
Lumosityfan
Agreed, practice is the best way to get good at math (especially for Astro). I spent most of the last two years struggling with math, but once I really started taking practice tests, I got much better, although you should definitely understand and know the formulas before you dive into that (make your own formula sheet, it really helps)
Unome
My school generally gets access to a lot of tests, which means that you often get an idea what kinds of equations get featured a lot.
merge
Some of the Astro formulas, like planetary equilibrium temperature, needs a lot of practice because it require many steps. Get your feet wet with distance modulus/Wien's law, then work on the more difficult plug-ins :)
raxu
^and know the ES won't go super crazy (after all, we need to solve them ourselves :) ) (nothing like solving for the mass of a planet without given the inclination to satisfy our needs! :| ) (trust me the equation is so gnarly you wish you did gymnastics instead)
Lumosityfan
thankfully planetary equilibrium won't show up for another few years
Unome
yeah this math is much simpler (although orbits eck sometimes)
Lumosityfan
my first year in Astro, that was a major part, which is probably part of why I struggled so much
Unome
caesar asks: "Binder events: to what extent is printing out Wikipedia articles and putting them in your binder helpful?"
JohnRichardsim
I think they can be helpful but still make sure you understand what's in those articles (as in don't just stuff them full of stuff)
Lumosityfan
I actually HATE doing that, because I'm not an organized person and I can't flip through that much information. I prefer to summarize everything important and then use a small binder, 1 inch being more than enough.
merge
I'm answering this from the herps/invasives perspective: This is an opinion, but I would say not at all.  The only situation in which that would be halfway acceptable is if you somehow were last-minute thrown onto an event and had to scramble something together.  It is almost pointless to have information in your binder that you are completely unfamiliar with, and in time-crunch events like herps, it's going to be impossible to find anything without completely sinking time.  Also, especially in herps, wikipedia does NOT have everything you'd need to learn about a taxon.
SOnerd
Agree with ^ I wouldn't put anything I already knew in the binder. (Also the herps may be alive so don't let them eat your notes :)
Null
make sure you're organized about it in other words
Lumosityfan
For physics events, it may be useful, but don't print directly - that wastes a ton of pages. Instead, copy the page onto Word or something and remove the excess. Most Wikipedia pages on physics matters can be condensed down to under 5 pages without having to go below 12 point.
Unome
Unless you're put into an event last minute, don't do it. The only time I've seen it be useful is studying mid-exam, and in times when someone tried it it went fairly poorly. You can get easily trapped up reading the article and trying to understand it.
raxu
Agreed. There are a small number of scenarios where it might be useful - for example in It's About Time (a past event), where the range of potential questions was very broad, but mostly it's better to make your own notes
Unome
Anonymous asks: "What style do you do your cheatsheets (Publisher, Docs, Word, etc.) and how do I make the most of my limited space (rote memory junk or concepts/stuff)"
JohnRichardsim
I use docs, which I can format just fine. 6pt font is the smallest I can really read, anyway. And by using Docs, I can share it with partners, and they can edit it too. As for space, I generally revise my sheet after every competition to take out what I'm so familiar with that I don't need.
merge
I typically use Powerpoint - an unusual choice, but I do a lot of image-heavy events and Powerpoint's image handling capabilities are the best that there are. However, for cases in which I need a large amount of text, I usually use Word - for example, I have one page of my A&P notesheet on Word and the other on Powerpoint.
Unome
I would say make sure to box things, so like have specific sections for each topic.
Lumosityfan
Agreed. Even if you don't actually separate into boxes (I often don't), definitely group things somehow.
Unome
I've (almost) always used Microsoft Word. In terms of maximizing space while maintaining some level of readability, I've come to use landscape orientation, 4 columns, with text just in large blocks without frequent breaks, however with lots of color to organize (I still don't use enough of it though).
JohnRichardsim
I like having two columns, which vastly improves readability. I don't think I'd ever go above that though.
merge
yeah don't use boxes actually
Lumosityfan
Oh, and can I take a moment to enthuse about Arial narrow? It isn't always the easiest to read at small font sizes, but boy does it squeeze in there.
JohnRichardsim
those can get annoying, and agreed about word, although moving images around is annoying :|
Lumosityfan
I like four columns portrait, though in the past I've used single-column landscape :P
Unome
Arial Narrow is the greatest
Unome
I used to use 100% text boxes, but now I realize that that's not very space-efficient and can quickly turn into quite a mess. Now, I use 5 columns, arial narrow, MS word.
SOnerd
Ten asks: "How do you prepare for the statistics portion of Disease Detectives?"
JohnRichardsim
I'm not 100% qualified to answer this because I'm not in AP Stat and I don't really know much about the stat portion, but I"ll give it a shot. This year, they're allowing graphing calculators to be used.  So, you should definitely bring yours into the event. It's really easy to do the chi squared test on the calculator - just make a matrix and do the test (there are numerous youtube videos that show you how to do this). So what I do is I make sure that I fully understand what each test does and why it's used (for example, there is one that does stratification, which is a very important concept)
SOnerd
soinc has a stat resource that might be helpful. https://www.soinc.org/sites/default/files/uploaded_files/16_DISEASE_STATISTICS_C_0.pdf
raxu
The emphasis should be placed on learning what the calculation does, not necessarily how to do it. Also, one thing I did last year is talking to the guy who teaches AP Stat at my school- he was able to give me a clearer understanding of some of the stat stuff.
SOnerd
Many tests will also give you the results of a statistical test without requiring you to perform it and ask you what it means, so make sure you understand what the purpose of each is.
JohnRichardsim
Ten asks: "For Rocks, how do you learn to recognize crystal habits?"
JohnRichardsim
Practice...SO MUCH
JohnRichardsim
I would look at as many minerals as possible
Null
Agreed on all counts
merge
Also minerals can have more than one habit so dont feel weird listing more than 1 if you think you see it. I’m not sure how other states/regionals run their rocks and minerals but last year I provided physical samples for my test.
Null
After doing the event for three years, I can honestly say that crystal habit is a topic I still have a long way to go on
JohnRichardsim
Don’t rely on crystal habit to ID your rocks, it’s something in addition to all the other features you see in your specimen to help you ID it.
Null
Ten asks: "For Herpetology, where can you find good, reliable info on the behavior and habits of various reptiles/amphibians?"
JohnRichardsim
I don't know how well this applies, but most of my mineral ID is by gut intuition.
merge
I'll answer the herps question. This is a hard question to answer, as many sources can be quite contradictory in their information.  What I usually do to make sure the facts I'm getting are right is I go on sources that are reliable (I try for something other than wikipedia, generally), and I make sure what I'm getting matches what I've found from other sources.
SOnerd
Here is the link to the Society for the Study of Amphibians and Reptiles, their resources site should help you with all your herping needs. https://ssarherps.org/all-about-herps/herpetology-resources-2/
Null
This is the society my herpetology professor suggested we use
Null
Field guides are generally reliable places to find information. Generally, if a site doesn't look very "professional" or officially done, it likely isn't the best information source. Also, if you google something and the "feature snippet" shows a fact, you should DEFINITELY click on the link for the snippet and make sure it's actually giving you the information you need- Google's search algorithm is flawed in that sense - it doesn't always highlight the correct thing.
SOnerd
Find a good, solid database or wiki for whatever field you're competing in. For R&M, that means mindat.org. For Microbe Mission, microbewiki is okay. For remsen, wiki.gis.com is pretty good. Each field, no matter how obscure has a bunch of experts willing to sacrifice blood, sweat, and tears to put everything into a database or a wiki.
merge
Reminder: if you have a question about a study event, feel free to message it to anyone with the + or % sign next to their name by typing /msg [username] [message]. To ensure it is answered, please send it by 9:00 Eastern/6:00 Pacific.
JohnRichardsim
At 9 Eastern/6 Pacific, we will open up the channel and free the panelists of their duties, so please make sure you get your question about a study event answered by messaging it to anyone with the + or % sign next to their name by typing /msg [username] [message]
JohnRichardsim