Online Tournament Formats

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Due to the ongoing impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, National Science Olympiad has adapted its tournament formats to accommodate various circumstances across states and schools. Offering a range of formats (Gold Standard, Satellite SO, and Mini SO) the organization aims to provide flexible solutions for in-person, hybrid, and remote learning environments. Each format is designed with safety and accessibility in mind, allowing states to choose the most suitable method of delivery while adhering to local public health regulations.

The Gold Standard is the traditional in-person, single-location tournament model, and is the default tournament model. Satellite SO is intended for students attending school in a physical building but where large public gatherings may be restricted. Teams participate by taking tests and recording results, either synchronously or asynchronously. Mini SO is designed for distance learning scenarios, delivering online tests through various technology platforms, notably Scilympiad.

In addition to these formats, MY SO is a supplementary program that spans 9 months, offering thematic, calendar-based resources to keep students engaged in Science Olympiad subjects. Each month focuses on a popular topic such as Forestry or Cybersecurity and provides free resources like Lesson Plans and STEM Sessions. This program can either stand alone or support any regular Science Olympiad season. As the situation remains fluid, tournament hosts are encouraged to be responsive and prepared to switch formats if necessary.

Satellite SO

Logo for Satellite SO

Satellite SO is a tournament format designed for the case that students are attending school in-person, but the tournament does not have a host site (e.g. large gatherings are forbidden, a school is not willing to host, etc.). Teams will take tests and record results of build events under supervision of teachers at the team's school, submitting them to the tournament host remotely. All participants must sign a safety waiver and agree to abide by an honor code, ensuring that no foul play takes place during an event.

Many tournaments in the 2021 season considered a Satellite SO option, but because of differing school closure policies, elected not to pursue that tournament format in favor of the Mini SO model.

Mini SO

Logo for Mini SO

Mini SO is a tournament format to be used in the event that students are still learning from home instead of in the classroom. Many hands-on events or subsections of events cannot be run due to safety and judging considerations—most events from the Technology and Engineering Design category are not slated to be run, and many events that include a lab portion will be test-only. Tests will be delivered electronically by event supervisors, and can be taken at a time that works for students.


MY SO is a program taking place concurrently with the 2021 season, designed to support students and keep them engaged with Science Olympiad even if tournaments are not proceeding as normal. The program takes place over the nine months from September 2020 to May 2021, focusing on a different topic each month.

MY SO Topics by Month
Month Topic
September 2022 Crave the Wave, Wifi Lab &Sounds of Music
October 2022 Forestry
November 2022 Forensics & Crime Busters
December 2022 Cybersecurity
January 2023 Anatomy and Physiology
February 2023 Astronomy & Solar System
March 2023 Disease Detectives
April 2023 Agricultural Science
May 2023 Wheeled Vehicle & Scrambler

Each month, free resources, including STEM Curriculum lesson plans and STEM Sessions are released publicly to support students who are interested in learning about the topics or students who are preparing for the STEM Showdowns. The STEM Curriculum lesson plans covers activities relating to the fields and are similar to class lectures. These materials are released on the 1st day of each month on the National Science Olympiad website. The STEM Sessions are posted on the Science Olympiad TV YouTube channel on the 15th day of each month and feature experts in the associated field and alumni from Science Olympiad talking about the field.

Towards the end of each month, a STEM Showdown will occur. This is an online competition between individual students and is open to all Division B and Division C students who are on a participating Science Olympiad team. They are completely online and similar to Science Olympiad tests for regular events. After the showdown has completed, the Division B and Division C results are released, showing place, abbreviated student name, and the school the student attends.

Gold Standard

The Gold Standard (or Gold SO) is a typical Science Olympiad tournament, featuring in-person activities and competition. For the 2021 season, event tournaments running by the Gold Standard may be different from past years, with measures in place for social distancing, proper sanitization, and limited capacity in event spaces.

No gold standard competitions are scheduled to take place in the 2021 season. The 2021 Northern Florida Regional at the University of Florida was originally scheduled to take place in-person, but a few days before the competition began, the regional was called off and merged with a regional at a later day.


The official website for online tournament formats
2020-2021 MY SO topic calendar
Potential Mini SO events