2020-2021 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 (soinc.org).

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.

Satellite SO is designed mostly for invitationals, but could be put into practice for regional and state tournaments depending on the conditions when the tournament is set to take place.

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. STEM Sessions will be available to teach students about the month's topics, and STEM Showdowns will take place each month. These are national competitions that students participate in alone, paired with leaderboards and prizes.

Gold Standard

The Gold Standard (or Gold SO) is the Science Olympiad tournament we're familiar with: in-person, single-location tournaments. For the 2021 season, event tournaments running by the Gold Standard may be different from past years, with measures in place for social distancing.


The official soinc.org website for the 2021 formats
MY SO topic calendar
Potential Mini SO events