Online Tournament Formats

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Due to the 2019-20 Coronavirus outbreak, many Science Olympiad tournaments taking place in the 2020 season could not proceed normally. By the beginning of the 2021 season, many states are looking towards in-person classes and resuming school as normal. However, each state is in a different place with regards to reopening, and tournaments may not be able to be held normally. As a result, the National Science Olympiad released potential 2020-2021 Tournament Formats (also known as Ways to Play), or different approaches that tournament hosts could take to hosting tournaments during a pandemic. Three different formats were released, along with a flow chart to help tournament hosts determine which format is best for them. A variety of factors are taken into account, such as whether or not large gatherings are allowed or if safe physical distancing practices can be followed. While traditional tournaments are still an option for the 2021 season, these tournament formats are designed to ensure that any state can host a tournament in a safe way.

Several surveys were sent out to competitors over the summer to gather feedback on how students were willing to participate in the 2021 season. These surveys were posted on the forums, as well as the National Science Olympiad website (

In any given season which features online tournaments, alternate events maybe offered to replace events which otherwise would be challenging or impossible to run online. Some replacement events, such as Digital Structures, are direct analogues of the events they replace (i.e. Boomilever), while other tournaments may choose to diversify their options or host a more "fun" event.

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