Roundtable Transcript: Lab Events (November 18, 2017)

Hello everyone! Welcome to the second roundtable of the season! We got Lab events for today, with an impressive set of panelists! Let's have them introduce themselves!
JohnRichardsim
Hi everyone! I am raxu, and I am the current captain of Scarsdale High School, NY :) So happy to be sharing some of my favorite events!
raxu
Hey! I'm a senior at Grand Haven High School in Michigan. Great to be here!
JohnRichardsim
I'm SOnerd.  Junior. Captain and founder of the Blue Valley North team from Kansas.  I've done Experimental Design.
SOnerd
Hi I'm michael
michael
Hey guys! I'm adi1008. Some events I do include Hovercraft, Write It Do It, and Optics.
adi1008
Hey all! I'm NeilMehta, head captain of Murphy Junior High School Science Olympiad ! Excited to help out with Lab Events this evening.
NeilMehta
Hi! I'm pikachu4919 (sometimes people just call me pika), and I am a graduate of Carmel High School in Indiana. I captained there, and my specialty is in Forensics (and protein modeling but that's not in rotation right now)
pika
Hi, I'm kenniky and I'm a graduate of Acton-Boxborough RHS in Massachusetts. I was a captain and participated in Chem Lab, Optics, and Game On.
kenniky
Hi! I'm Raleway and I do such events like whirlyboys and, demolition derby of tall structures, materials, and some always memed inquiry events :)
Raleway_
alright, we are now opening up for questions!
NeilMehta
At this point, we are accepting questions from you audience members. Send them to any of our panelists or SOnerd. Before answering them, however, we'd like to discuss some general topics
JohnRichardsim
First up: cheat sheets and binders!
JohnRichardsim
you can use "/msg (user)" to message one of us - for example, to message me, type "/msg NeilMehta (question)"
NeilMehta
In my experience with binders, I've had the most success when the majority of stuff in the binder is my own notes, not just documents I took directly from other sources.
JohnRichardsim
Question from Michael: how to study for forensics/where to start?
NeilMehta
I'd say the best topic to start with is qualitative analysis. It's the topic worth the most points besides the essay, and it's the one where you have to be the most careful with (qualitative analysis is the powders), because of the nature of the chemical tests you do on them, and how they're very fragile/prone to mistakes. Then polymers, then chromatography, then the rest of the selected topics
pika
Calcium Carbonate, corn starch, Sodium Chloride, etc.
raxu
Side comment: resource-wise, scioly wiki and the NSO website http://mypage.iu.edu/~lwoz/socrime/index.htm can be very useful as a start.
raxu
but honestly, one of the best ways to study forensics is to do lots of lab practice with the actual materials, because no amount of reading of websites on what reactions happen can beat your own observations of the reactions. For example, a common error I've seen occur is the flame color of sodium and how it's "yellow", but is it a canary yellow, a lemon yellow, or a golden yellow? People tend to think of it more like a lemon yellow, so they get confused when they see a more golden/orangish shade for sodium. It's stuff like that which makes doing lab practice and seeing this stuff for yourself extremely effective. You can get stuff for the lab practice from lots of different sources: for powders, you might be able to get them and the reagents needed to perform tests on them from the chemistry department at your school.
pika
You can buy samples of fibers on local stores or on amazon. Hairs require some wittiness, and you can get plastic from their most common sources (e.g. PVC pipe for PVC) :)
raxu
But the caution of that is the composition of the plastic, like is it pure PVC, or is it PVC with some other polymers mixed in? A company called Hands-On Plastics sells some pretty nice kits for SO. For fibers, I usually get them from the craft store, trying to look for fabrics that have 100% pure composition of that fiber. For chromatography, your school chemistry department also probably has the paper, you need to come up with some gel pens.
pika
Reminder: we are accepting questions from you audience members. Send them to either one of our panelists, Person, or SOnerd.
JohnRichardsim
(use "/msg [any voiced member] [question]" to send a question!)
NeilMehta
For hair...it can be tricky sometimes. You can get human hair from your friends. You can get cow/horse hair from stables/farms. You can also see your own hair as a human hair sample. Squirrel hair is actually sold as a component of fly fishing lures, so you can buy it like that (or, pick hair off dead carcasses, which is not recommended as it is a potential biohazard). Powders, polymers, and chromatography are usually the ones to practice in lab, while mass spec and select topics are topics that you can study on the internet.
pika
A general topic: Goggles!
raxu
It is very easy for goggles to fog up. Most lab events ask for indirect vents, which fog up because of the difference in temperature between your eyes and the surrounding. I recommend wearing the goggle some time before the competition to get used to it. If the fog issue does not resolve, there are anti-fog sprays.
raxu
Remember to read the eye protection policies at https://www.soinc.org/eye-protection
JohnRichardsim
The rules generally call between two types of eye protection. These change for different events. The two types of eye protection are B and C, and the type you need can be found at the top of the rules page for the event. C protection goggles will cover the eye completely, and B goggles will more closely resemble sunglasses. There is also A protection, which is not as commonly seen on the rules, but all three standards can be explained in detail at the link posted by John above
NeilMehta
some proctors are more strict about goggles than others, so it's better to go with what the rules say
pika
A good way to remember what the google types are with the  mnemonic A = average, B = blast protection, C = chemical splash protection
bernard
If your goggles fog up during the event, you should ask your event supervisor before taking them off and cleaning them
adi1008
most supervisors let you step out of the room for a second to defog if you need to
pika
Another mistake I've seen teams make is rolling up sleeves during an event that requires long sleeves/lab coats
bernard
Some proctors might be laid-back and let you get away with not following standards, but some certainly will not
NeilMehta
^such as the national supervisor
pika
Our team was disqualified at state for rolling up sleeves (the event was Chem Lab)
bernard
Next question: michael asks: "For Experimental Design, how you decide what people do, how does your team split up the work, and how do you come up with experiments?"
JohnRichardsim
I can answer that
SOnerd
Usually you try and split it up to people's strengths - someone very fast with a calculator might do parts involving statistics or analysis; someone very fast at writing could do writing-intensive parts like the procedure or hypothesis
adi1008
1) We usually base who does what on our strengths.  For example, I am a stronger writer, so I tend to take the analysis/qualitative sections.  My partners are better at actually running the experiment and crunching the numbers, so they do the experiment, graphs, and stats.  While they are running the experiment, I do all the writing sections that don't depend on data, and then I do the ones that do depend on data when they're done. The other people usually have time left over, so they do the writing sections that I can’t get done .
SOnerd
Usually, you want it to be split up in a way such that everyone can be writing something at all times
adi1008
2) (just answered)
SOnerd
3) We choose our experiment by looking at the materials and the topic given.  We find ways that we can test a hypothesis related to the topic (the experiment is usually something that the results are pretty obvious).  We always make sure that we have made the experiment such that we can have FOUR levels of Independent Variable (the needed 3 + the SOC), so that's important to take into consideration.
SOnerd
Next question: mxzhang asks: "For Game On, how do your pair split up the work, since you only get one computer to work with?"
JohnRichardsim
so in my experience, you just need to figure out what each of you is better at - for example, if someone is good at making sprites, or thinking of game ideas. Generally if you come up with a timeline? of sorts to follow (i.e. start with framework, go to code, etc) and partition each of those according to your strengths it should work. I also recommend that while one person is working on the computer the other one continues doing things, for example writing instructions, thinking of sprites or mechanics, etc
kenniky
My partner and I generally split it up by typing speed. My partner was much faster at typing than me, so he did the game structure/instructions stuff. While he was doing that, I would come up with a storyline for the game and plan out all the gameplay and sprites/movements and stuff. This included stuff like the scenes (we usually drew them ourselves). After my partner was done, I'd start making all the sprites and gameplay stuff. While I was doing that, my partner would thinking of thoughtful comments to write and make sure I'm not making any big mistakes in my code (like dropping negative signs). When I finish making the gameplay/setting/story stuff, then my partner takes over again and writes all the comments and does the endgame stuff.
adi1008
On my team, the drawer usually makes quick sketches while the coder works on mechanics. Agreed with everything above :)
raxu
Next question: mxzhang asks: "A question for Optics... If a school doesn't have a Laser Shoot Surface for testing, what can it do to prepare for that component?"
JohnRichardsim
A lot of the LSS can be planned for theoretically without an LSS.
adi1008
So I guess the best thing to suggest is to just make one, there are instructions on soinc.org which are pretty good. But if you don't have the time/don't feel like it you can definitely do it theoretically and make templates.
kenniky
Even if you don't have an LSS, you can still try drawing it out on a piece of paper or a whiteboard.
JohnRichardsim
(https://www.soinc.org/sites/default/files/uploaded_files/SO_Optics_Laser_Shoot_Surface_161024.pdf)
NeilMehta
You should come up with a plan for what mirrors you'd use and in what configurations (usually people try to keep 45 degree angles) and how you'll aim/use barrier mirrors. Some of the more nuanced stuff, like dealing with the thickness of the mirrors and stuff, is tough to get without actual practice.
adi1008
(not going to lie, I often distract myself in class by drawing theoretical LSS runs in my notebooks)
JohnRichardsim
Time for a general topic: calculators
JohnRichardsim
SOinc posted an FAQ describing the new phrase in the rules "dedicated to computation": https://www.soinc.org/what-meant-calculator-dedicated-computation-and-are-there-specific-calculator-models-are-allowed-13
JohnRichardsim
(although this link is posted under Astronomy, it was also posted under every single event that allows a calculator)
JohnRichardsim
Generally, this refers to calculators that do not contain non-computational functions. If you use a phone calculator, it isn't dedicated to computation, because it isn't made specifically to compute.
NeilMehta
but one of the most prominent things you have to remember is to make sure you have carefully reviewed the rules
pika
Side comment: If you want a table of what resource is allowed for each event, scioly wiki has great pages. My school also made one at https://docs.google.com/a/scarsdaleschools.org/spreadsheets/d/1yMqLvNG1OzG1UUvVSy3ZT8xfUEQF07yXNwBVksMW0Z8/edit?usp=sharing.
raxu
In the end, the event supervisor has the say on whether your notes, equipment, lab attire, or calculator is appropriate for the competition or not, so if you have any questions, ask them, but it's much better to know the rules and comply with them beforehand to avoid finding yourself in a sticky situation that could possibly elicit disqualification
pika
Next question: Froggie asks: "What's a good way to study for the hard math stuff?" (Optics)
JohnRichardsim
Make up questions and try to solve them yourself.
raxu
Since calculus is not allowed, the hardest math that you should be tested on is trigonometry, so you should familiarize yourself with those and memorize the identities.
kenniky
Some general physics textbooks will have a section on optics. Most of these will also have chapter review questions you can use.
JohnRichardsim
For the hard math problems, problem-solving skills are essential. You need practice to get familiar with them. Try practices tests, such as the ones found on the test exchange :)
raxu
(https://scioly.org/tests/)
NeilMehta
I personally have a Giancoli physics textbook on loan from my school. It has DEFINITELY helped me get a handle on the math.
JohnRichardsim
In general doing practice questions are always good! If you want practice with harder problems, many college invitationals tend towards the harder side, if you can get them.
kenniky
Question by mxzhang: "In Mousetrap, we still don't have a strategy for reversing our cart. Where would be a good place to start?"
NeilMehta
unfortunately, we are not going over build events during this session, however, our build panelists will be available at the upcoming Build roundtable
NeilMehta
antoine_ego has a response at https://scioly.org/forums/viewtopic.php?f=274&t=11097, although there are some words that may be difficult if you are new.
raxu
A question from ABRHS: What are possible labs that could show up in chem lab that have to do with physical properties?
kenniky
The rule manual suggests density of a metal, density of a liquid with pycnometer, or separate a mixture based on properties like magnetism and solubility. There are certainly more labs that may appear such as electrical resistance and conductivity.
raxu
Next question: Froggie asks: "What are some materials you have seen at tournaments for WIDI?"
JohnRichardsim
There are lots! Common materials include Legos, Knex, popsicle sticks, pipe cleaners, cups, and toothpicks, but basically anything is possible. When you're practicing, try to use as many different materials as possible so that you can get used to them.
kenniky
Invitationals traditionally use more ratchet, household items while regional/state/national tournaments traditionally use more standard items like Legos, Lincoln Logs, etc.
Raleway_
Kuromes_snacks asks: I was just going to ask what happens in a matsci lab, is it just anything?
NeilMehta
From my limited experience, Young's Modulus labs are possibly the most common followed by yield strength? On http://mypage.iu.edu/~lwoz/socrime/index.htm some other labs are suggested.
raxu
Anything can really happen; depends how evil the ES is. Just be prepared for anything reasonable to happen in a standard high school lab that's relevant this year.
Raleway_
Organic Chemistry is now part of Materials Science, so labs on them may appear as well.
raxu
question from htyo: "Question for Fermi: do you personally practice remembering known values (e.g. mass of Earth)"
NeilMehta
Some stuff naturally sticks in your head if you can make it meaningful or talk about it with other people. Otherwise, you can make an excel spreadsheet/quizlet for mass, length, time, etc
adi1008
You definitely don't need to know it exactly, but knowing the first few digits, and at least the size of the number is very useful.
NeilMehta
I'd recommend knowing constants to at least 1 significant figure.
adi1008
Knowing a lot of values (diameter of our galaxy, diameter of sun, one light-year, one AU) always comes in handy. Pro tip: remember that 70% of the earth's surface is water (and know the formula for surface area of a sphere), those two can come in handy in many scenarios. But yeah, practicing with them is more effective than brute memorization.
NeilMehta
You remember a lot of values just from practicing. Usually my team writes down our estimations on one side and confirm them after the test.
raxu
Reading random books/textbooks helps with finding numbers that could be useful in fermi as well. For example, Campbell's biology tells you that all of the plants on Earth produce on average about 10^13 kg of cellulose per year
adi1008
I had a similar experience: I found this old book in the back of my school's library that had a bunch of cool facts about the Mackinac Bridge. Did you know that the bridge has 1 million tons of concrete? I do now.
JohnRichardsim
question from dsfasafd: "what are some ways to account for barrier mirrors in optics?"
NeilMehta
A lot of teams have premade templates for using the barrier mirrors. Getting 1 barrier and being accurate is better than trying to go for all 3 and having the laser blocked somewhere
adi1008
If there is a barrier mirror on the midline that is facing the initial laser, you can place a mirror parallel to it, like a periscope. That way, the emergent ray is still parallel to the midline. Getting the barrier mirrors with good accuracy consistently is extremely difficult though. If you aren't confident you can get it accurately, the best way to account for them may just be to ignore them.
JohnRichardsim
question from ceaser: "Hi! At my school we pair partners up based on teams, and I need to motivate my partner for practice tests and labs. Any tips?"
NeilMehta
It can be very difficult to have partners engaged in events, especially when they have other events that they must work on. Often, the problem becomes one of priority. However, in some cases, the partner just doesn't want to work. In these cases, the best thing to do would be to improve your communication - communication is key in a healthy partnership for any event, and is especially crucial for lab events, where there is a hands-on portion. Lab events also offer a unique opportunity: you can ask your partner to stay after school one day and work on an event. Your main goal in this case is to just improve your performance. Many teammates are motivated much more by performing and placing better overall. Anyway, if this doesn't work, it is best to have an honest discussion with your partner, because the fact of the matter is, some partners simply aren't interested in events, but IMO, it isn't a reason to ever give up on them.
NeilMehta
Last question of the evening, from troy HS: "what are the most common topics for fast facts?"
NeilMehta
Fast facts have many topics that draw from all different events. Doing other events will be helpful for the event!
raxu
I think I've heard that scientists pop up a lot.
JohnRichardsim
There are sometimes History of Science topics as well.
raxu
Vocab is probably the most common topic, so just study vocabulary from other events on Quizlet, and you should be well prepared!
NeilMehta
Elements are another common topic
adi1008
Famous scientists are good to know too
bernard
Well, we're going to close this up now. Thank you all for coming! Have questions about other types of events? Stay tuned for the next roundtable announcement!
JohnRichardsim