Effect of COVID-19 on the 2020-21 season
The outbreak of COVID-19 throughout the United States had considerable effects on the 2020-21 season. The outbreak most notably caused a drop in the number of teams participating in Science Olympiad in nearly all states, an increase in the number of virtual tournaments offered to teams throughout the season, and a decrease in the number of in-person tournaments hosted throughout the season. Additionally, some virtual or in-person tournaments had difficulty finding event supervisors or volunteers to assist with their tournaments. Many teams reported that less students were participating in their programs for the 2020-21 season due to the current program constraints.
National Science Olympiad helped to introduce measures to counter the negative impact of COVID-19 on Science Olympiad, including introducing the MY SO, Satellite SO, and Mini SO programs. These programs were meant to engage students and assist tournaments in hosting their tournaments through pre-defined formats. Additionally, some event rules were modified so that the events could be run easier at digital tournaments, such as modifying Write It Do It to become Write It CAD It. Many teams attempted to increase engagement within their own teams by hosting fun digital events or socially-distanced events.
The 2020-21 season concluded with the 2021 national tournament at Arizona State University, which was held digitally, although still hosted by Arizona State University. It was announced that the next national tournament would likely be virtual as well, which generated both support and backlash from members of the community, considering the benefits and losses of the largely virtual format of the 2020-21 season.