Event Clarifications, Q&As, and Resources: 

Updated: 02/05/2014


The tentative event schedule will be posted on our
website the week of the Olympiad.

It is always tentative until the day of the event.


2012/13 Science Olympiad

Fall Coaches Workshop Presentations

Workshop Presentations

New Mexico Science Olympiad

Clarification Rules

Updated: 2/05/2014

Boomilever – Dr. Tim Hankins
Q.  Would you please give us a clarification on Boomilever number 3.c.? The rule states the center of the loading block measured horizontally from the face of the testing wall must be between 45.0 cm-50.0 cm, and approximately centered horizontally on the testing wall. I take it to mean that if two of the hooks are used for B division then they should be the outer hooks.  Because if the middle and one of the end is used the, the boomilever would not be centered on the wall.

A.  Thanks for your request for clarification of the Boomilever 2014 rules. I am always delighted to hear when a coach reads the rules carefully!!

Here's my interpretation: The key words in Rule 3c. are "approximately centered horizontally on the testing wall". If a contestant builds a bridge that uses two of the hooks that are next to each other, that is, 10 cm apart, and the bridge is more or less symmetrical, then the loading block would be within 5 cm of the center line of the testing wall. In this case, 5 cm away is close enough to be considered "approximately centered horizontally on the testing wall". This is not to say that our tolerance for other measurements in this event will be 5 cm. In fact, we try to shoot for 1 to 2 mm. 

Mission Possible – Hollis Dinwiddle
Q. On # 4.a. in the MP manual It states the  start task is to pour a mixture of up to 10 golf tees, 10 paper clips and 10 marbles. Do you interpret this to mean that if you use 10 marbles you must have 10 of the other 2 also, or can you use 10 marbles, 2 golf tees, 3 paper clips or anything in between?

A. This is how I interpret this rule:

Start Task (100 points) - (1) In a 1 pint container, randomized by shaking, is a mixture of up to 10 golf tees (4-10 cm long), 10 #1 metal paperclips, and 10 non-metallic 1-2 cm diameter marbles, (2) which are quickly poured into the device (3) from above the entire device, so that the mixture falls into the device and (4) triggers the first action, which (5) begins the chain of events. All materials in the mixture must be un-altered. If any part of 4.a. is violated, no points will be awarded for the Start Task or the Bonus Task.

The word “mixture” means that there must be at least one of each but not necessarily equal number each.  i.e. 2 tees, 1 paperclip, 10 marbles would be acceptable.

Maglev – Dr. Carlos Carrillo-Lopez  
Q.  On construction 3.h the rule states that the propeller must be shielded so that the judge can’t make contact with the propeller with a standard ¼ inch dowel. Do you interpret this to mean that there should be a shield all the way around the prop, or just on the back end of it?

A.  Thanks for the question. My reading of the rules is that there should be a shield all the way around the propeller. Otherwise the judge, using a 1/4 '' standard dowel, could touch the propeller at the places where the shield is not present.

Please keep in mind that judges must still be able to verify the dimensions of the propeller.

Entomology - Dr. Carol Sutherland

Student teams are allowed to bring these items into their exam:
1)  a magnifying glass
2)  one copy of the recommended field guide (tabs ok)
3)  one copy of the attached insect list---‘the orderly arrangement of insects’---       students will use the numbers on the list as answers  for id-related questions.

Yes, students can write on the back of this insect list and on all the margins if they choose; this single sheet of notes is allowable.

Entomology Insect List


Dr. Gerald Sims, Head of the Entomology, Plant Pathology & Weed Science Department at NM State University is offering TWO $400 SCHOLARSHIPS to the HIGH POINT TEAM of HIGH SCHOOL STUDENTS.

Yes, there is a string attached to this scholarship deal……the student will need to register at NMSU as an incoming freshman majoring in Agricultural Biology to USE that scholarship. It’s never too early to plan for your college experience!

National Science Olympiad

Clarification Rules

Anatomy B (11/11/13) par. 3.a.iii. should read:Anatomy of the  layers of the skin and skin receptors

Elastic Launched Glider (11/11/13) 5.e. should read: “Teams with Construction or Competition violations must be ranked after all teams that do not violate those rules”

Boomilever B/C (1/27/14) Par. 3.d. should read: The Loading Block must be supported at a height no lower than 5.0 cm below the allowed B/C Contact Depth line (see 4.b.iv.) before loading the sand.

Boomilever B/C (1/27/14) Par. 7.c. (Tier 2) should be: (Tier 3) as the Contact Depth example is a Construction Violation.

Mission Possible (9/13/13) 3.i should read: "Only wires, batteries, , photosensors (e.g., photovoltaic cells, photodiodes, photoresistors, phototransistors), light bulbs, LEDs, homemade solenoids, switches, and up to three motors may be used in the device. No computers, integrated circuits or other electric components are allowed.

Water Quality B/C (11/11/13) 3. should read: Supervisors are expected to utilize estuary and marine scenarios and have students analyze and evaluate comparative  indicator organisms and water quality data.

Science Olympiad Policy for Measuring and Recording Significant Figures (12/5/12)

Significant Figures in measurement include all the digits of a number that can be read directly from the markings or graduations of the instrument or measuring device plus the digit that is estimated. The last digit (and only the last one) of a measurement should be an estimate, which is counted as a significant figure. All Science Olympiad events follow this basic measurement rule. Division B students are not expected to apply the significant figure rules below for B events (e.g., Metric Mastery) unless otherwise stated in the Event Rule. By convention, if a number is less than one, a zero should always be written to the left of the decimal point, but this zero is not significant (e.g., 0.2).

Rules on determining how many significant figures are in a number:
  • All non-zero digits are always significant.
  • All zeros between two significant figures are significant.
  • All leading zeros are not significant.
  • Trailing zeros in a number containing a decimal point are significant.
  • Trailing zeros in a whole number may or may not be significant, but are significant if they were a known measured or counted value.

[Note: whole numbers rarely occur with Science Olympiad measurements because you generally record the last digit as an estimate (e.g., if you measured exactly 100mm on a ruler marked in mm, you must estimate the last digit even if it is closest to a zero and record it as 100.0mm, so in this case all four digits are significant). However, if you read 100g on an electronic balance, you cannot estimate the last digit and would record it as 100g (by convention, you should either place a bar under (or over) the last significant figure or express the number in scientific notation with the appropriate exponent (e.g., 100g or 1.00gx102 so in this case all three digits are significant)]

Rounding off rules. Examine the digit to the right of the one that is to be the last significant figure:
  • If the digit is below 5, drop it and all digits to the right of it.
  • If the digit is more than 5, increase by 1 the significant figure to the left.
  • If the digit is 5, round the significant figure to the left so that it is an even digit (exception: for the Fermi event, always round up if the digit is 5).

Calculations and significant figures:
   • Addition and subtraction: the result should have as many decimal places as the measured number with the smallest number of decimal places.
  • Multiplication and division: the result should have as many significant figures as the measured number with the smallest number of significant figures.
  • When performing intermediate calculations, keep as many digits as is practical until the end of calculation to avoid rounding errors. Rev. 12/5/12

Recommended Resources:

Events requiring Eye Protection #5 (High Impact Protection - ANSI Z87+) - Goggles with lenses identified as Z87+ regardless of markings on other parts of the goggles and Spectacles identified as Z87+ with side shields regardless of markings on other parts of the spectacles will be acceptable for events requiring High Impact Protection #5. (4/8/10)


Olympiad Students!  Nominate your coach for the

Coach of the Year Award!   

This award is presented each year to one Middle School and one High School Science Olympiad Coach. It serves to recognize those individuals who have made a positive contribution to Science Olympiad, their students, their school, and their community.  Deadline for nomination forms is February 17, 2014. 

Click for a nomination form.    PDF Format     MSWord Format