Competition Policies

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In order to ensure that Science Olympiad teams are respectful and the competition is fair, Science Olympiad Inc. has established several sets of policies to regulate the competition. These policies are listed on here.

Note that is a place to ask questions and share ideas. This site is not the place to get event rules, official rules changes, or official clarifications. For the most relevant and up-to-date information, always check

Code of Ethics and General Rules

The goal of competition is to give one's best effort while displaying honesty, integrity, and good sportsmanship. Everyone is expected to display courtesy and respect (see Science Olympiad Pledges below). Teams are expected to make an honest effort to follow the rules and the spirit of the problem (not interpret the rules so they have an unfair advantage). Failure by a participant, coach, or guest to abide by these codes, accepted safety procedures, or rules below, may result in an assessment of penalty points or, in rare cases, disqualification by the tournament director from the event, the tournament, or future tournaments.

  1. Actions and items (e.g., tools, notes, resources, supplies, electronics, etc.) are permitted, unless they are explicitly excluded in the rules, are unsafe, or violate the spirit of the problem.
  2. While competing in an event, participants may not leave without the event supervisor's approval and must not receive any external assistance. All electronic devices capable of external communication as well as calculator applications on multipurpose devices (e.g. laptop, phone, tablet) are not permitted unless expressly permitted in the event rule or by an event supervisor. Cell phones, if not permitted, must be turned off. At the discretion of the event supervisor, participants may be required to place their cell phones in a designated location.
  3. Participants, coaches and other adults are responsible for ensuring that any applicable school or Science Olympiad policy, law or regulation is not broken. All Science Olympiad content (e.g., policies, requirements, clarifications, FAQs, etc. on must be treated as if it were included in the printed rules.
  4. All pre-built devices presented for judging must be constructed, impounded, and operated by one or more of the 15 current team members unless stated otherwise in the rules. If a device has been removed from the event area, appeals related to that device will not be considered.
  5. Officials are encouraged to apply the least restrictive penalty for rules infractions (see examples in the Scoring Guidelines). Event supervisors must provide prompt notification of any penalty, disqualification or tier ranking.
  6. State and regional tournament directors must notify teams of any site-dependent rule or other rule modification with as much notice as possible, ideally at least 30 days prior to the tournament.

Science Olympiad Pledges

Student's Pledge

I pledge to put forth my best effort in the Science Olympiad tournament and to uphold the principles of honest competition. In my events, I will compete with integrity, respect, and sportsmanship towards my fellow competitors. I will display courtesy towards Event Supervisors and Tournament Personnel. My actions will exemplify the proud spirit of my school, team, and state.

Coach's Pledge

On behalf of the coaches and assistants at this tournament, I pledge to encourage honesty and respect for tournament personnel, our fellow coaches, and other team members. We want our efforts to bring honor to our community and school.

Parent's Pledge

On behalf of the parents and spectators I pledge to be an example for our children by:

  • respecting the rules of Science Olympiad,
  • encouraging excellence in preparation and investigation,
  • supporting independence in design and production of all competition devices,
  • and respecting the decisions of event supervisors and judges.

Our examples will promote the spirit of cooperation within and among all our participating teams.

Event Supervisor's Pledge

On behalf of my fellow supervisors and tournament personnel, I pledge to run my event with fairness and respect for the participants and their coaches. Our actions will reflect the principles of the Science Olympiad program and display the pride we feel as representatives of our colleges, universities, companies, states or organizations.

Team Qualification and Home School Policy

Science Olympiad National Policy on Team Qualification and Home Schools

This policy provides guidelines that are to be used with all schooling options and in all states. Primary enrollment at a school will be determined by what school holds the student's records and matriculates the student (a general definition of primary enrollment), and a student may only be primarily enrolled at a single school.

A Team Endeavor

Science Olympiad requires all participants in Science Olympiad competitions to participate as members of a team, not as individuals.

Public School Students

Public school students may participate in Science Olympiad only as members of a team that is formed in the local public school that they attend. In the case of 9th graders, public school students may compete on the team from the middle school that they most recently attended. Public school students may not opt to participate on another school’s team.

Private, Charter And Alternative School Students

Private schools, “governor” schools, charter schools, and any other school that is qualified by the state and is housed in a single geographic location, may form Science Olympiad teams from among the students in their student body, regardless of where that student's home of origin is located. Such schools may not solicit or enlist public school or home-schooled students on their teams.

Cyber Or Virtual School (Online) Students

Option 1 - Participation through a Local Public School: If the state in which a cyber/virtual school student resides allows cyber/virtual school students to participate in local public school activities, cyber/virtual school students may either (1) choose to participate as a member of the Science Olympiad team at the local public school they would attend were they not enrolled in the cyber/virtual school, or (2) form a cyber/virtual school team from among the students in that school's student body as if they were students in a private/charter school as set forth above. A student may only participate on a single team.

Option 2 - Participation solely through a State-Recognized Cyber or Virtual School: If the state in which a cyber/virtual school student resides recognizes and financially supports cyber/virtual schools, Science Olympiad will also recognize cyber/virtual school teams consisting only of students who are enrolled at that cyber/virtual school. Such schools may not solicit or enlist public school, private school or home-schooled students on their teams.

Home-schooled Students

Option 1 - Participation through a Local Public School: If the state in which a home schooled student resides allows home schooled students to participate in public school activities, home schooled students may either (1) choose to participate as a member of the Science Olympiad team at the local public school they would attend were they not home schooled, or (2) form a home school team as set forth in Option #2, below.

Option 2 - Participation through a Home School Team: Science Olympiad will recognize Home School Teams consisting only of students who live within the boundaries of two contiguous (side-by-side) geographic counties in a single state. As of July 20, 2011, the two-contiguous-county/single state policy will apply to all Science Olympiad Home School Teams who wish to attend to the Science Olympiad National Tournament and Science Olympiad will no longer qualify multi-county or multi-state Home School Teams. (This home school portion of the policy was adopted in 2008 and a three-year grace period of qualification followed.)

Registering And Qualifying Teams

The state Science Olympiad organization is responsible for registering and qualifying all Science Olympiad teams. In the case of a public, private, charter, cyber or other alternative school Science Olympiad team, a roster signed by the principal of the school is considered proper validation. In the case of a Home School Team, a roster signed by the President of the home school association or the head of the independent home school is considered proper validation.

Investigation Of Team Qualifications

If a state Science Olympiad organization suspects that a team is comprised of students who are not members of that school’s student body or that a team is not legitimate, the Science Olympiad State Director may ask the coach to provide verification of that team’s qualifications as follows:

  • A public, private, virtual or charter school student’s qualification may be verified by some form of school identification, school roster, recent report card, evidence of residence in the school district or other similar documents appropriate to the situation.
  • A home-schooled student’s qualification may be verified by the student’s annual notice of intent to home school and some proof of residency within two contiguous designated counties.

State Directors or officials may not contact individual students to determine qualification. All inquires must go through official channels that are relevant to and can confirm the student's enrollment status, such as the administrative offices of a school district, private school, charter school or virtual school, or the registered Home School Team coach or head of an independent home school.

Sanctions For Non-qualified Participation

If, after investigation, the State Director determines that a team or its members are not qualified, it may impose a sanction that may include disqualification of a student team member, disqualification of a team coach, or a team’s disqualification from a tournament. In the event of multiple cases of disqualification, a coach or team may be barred from future competition.

Scoring Guidelines

  1. All teams who participate and compete according to the rules must be scored and ranked. All ties for the top medal and trophy places must be broken. To break event ties use the procedures in each event rule. In the event that a tie can't be broken, award points according to the place tied and then skip the next place (e.g., if two teams were tied for 3rd place, both get 3 points and the next place team would get 5 points). To break ties for a team place count the highest number of gold medals, then silver and so on.
  2. Teams/devices that do not meet the requirements in the event rules will be allowed to compete if possible and are to be scored and ranked below those who met all of the specifications. They will be awarded event points in relation to their rank. Event Supervisors may, at their discretion, allow students to modify any device before it is impounded to bring it into compliance with the rules. That discretion, if extended, must be made available to all competitors equally. Any modification must be completed, and the device impounded, before the expiration of the impound period. Supervisors and Officials may not provide assistance or advice regarding the type of modifications or how to accomplish them prior to, or at any time during the tournament day. Supervisors are encouraged to post or have available student self-checklists/team scoresheets such as those posted for many technology events on:
  3. Teams making an honest attempt to participate that cannot be assigned a raw score because of time, mechanical failure, wrong dimensions, etc., will be listed as a “P” for Participation for the raw score on the score sheet and will be awarded N points. “N” is equal to the number of teams registered to compete in the Tournament (we expect 60 teams for each division) as shown on your score sheet. Any device which, in the judgment of the Event Supervisor, is a safety hazard to competitors, judges, or spectators, will not be allowed to compete and will be listed as a P (Participation) for the raw score on the score sheet and will be awarded N points.
  4. If a team does not show up or does not make an honest attempt to participate, the team will be listed as a No Show or “NS” for the raw score on the score sheet and awarded N+1 points. This includes teams who may be present but display no preparation for the competition.
  5. Teams should be Disqualified or “DQ” only for misbehavior (to include excessive use of improper or vulgar language) or cheating. Put DQ as raw score and award N+2 points on the score sheet. Also, note on the score sheet the reason why teams were disqualified. Event Supervisors may remove from competition any student(s) whose personal or ethical behavior does not adhere to the Science Olympiad Code of Ethics. This action will disqualify the affected student(s) from participation and scoring in that event only. If any team is DQed or Ranked Below Others or placed in a lower tier, inform the student as soon as a problem occurs (and remind the student to inform their coach). If the problem was not determined until after students had left, contact head coach by cell phone immediately. Be sure to list the detailed reason on the score sheet and the Counseling Form.
  6. Teams who were scored and had a raw score placed on the answer sheet are to be awarded points for each place as follows: 1st – 1 point, 2nd – 2 points, - up to 60th – 60 points. Teams with the fewest points will be awarded the highest trophies.
  7. Teams considered as PARTICIPATION, NO SHOW, OR DISQUALIFIED will be ranked and assigned points as follows:
    PARTICIPATION (P) = N points = 60 points
    NO SHOW (NS) = N + 1 points = 61 points
    DISQUALIFIED ( DQ) = N + 2 points = 62 points
    Note: N = number of teams registered to compete for each division of the tournament not the number of teams that actually enter the event. We expect 60 teams to be registered for each division at the national tournament, so N=60. (Note 2: states (not NSO) with low numbers for P in selected events may reward teams for P by using the number of teams that actually enter the event.)
  8. To prevent scoring errors, after turning in the score sheet with raw scores and all supporting documentation (answer sheets, master answer key, student papers, etc.), you will be asked to participate in a Score Counseling session to explain how you scored teams (formulas, tie-breakers, etc.) for all 60 places. The reason a team was disqualified, not ranked, ranked below, or received only a participation score must be recorded.
    Note: NATIONAL TOURNAMENT SCORING POLICY - At the end of the Science Olympiad National Tournament Awards Ceremony each team’s head coach will be provided one copy of the final scores. Within one hour after the ceremony is completed the head coach may submit compelling evidence of a scoring inconsistency using this Team Ranking Inquiry Form (will be a live link at the 2018 National Tournament). If the evidence is verified, the appropriate points, medals and trophies will be awarded for that team only. Thinking that your team "did better" than scores reflect is not considered compelling evidence. Teams will not be asked to return awards or to relinquish any points. Scores for the Science Olympiad National Tournament are not official until they are posted on the website.