What Is Science Olympiad?



Who can Participate




Team Information

Forming a Team


Preparation Methods

Membership Fee

Team Size

Measuring Success



Starting a Team PDF

What is Science Olympiad?

A nationally recognized nonprofit organization devoted to improving the quality of science education among children everywhere.

A program for providing recognition for academic efforts and hard work of students and teachers.

What are the Goals of Science Olympiad?

  • To bring science to life, to show how science works, to emphasize problem solving aspects of science and the understanding of science concepts.

  • To expose students to real-life challenges of working with a team, group planning and cooperation.

  • To capture and retain the interest of students in science and technology.

  • To increase participation of students in science courses, programs, fairs, and clubs.

  • To attract students to careers in science, technology and science teaching.

  • Enhancement of student self-esteem through genuine achievements.

  • Enrichment of classroom science programs.

  • Strengthening of school spirit.

  • Involvement of the community.

What are the benefits of Science Olympiad? 

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A three year Georgia State University study of the impact of Science Olympiad on middle and high school students confirmed significant benefits in the following areas:

1. Increased in-depth knowledge and understanding of science concepts and general knowledge

  • An increase in ability to apply scientific knowledge

  • Greater breadth of knowledge in areas previously unexplored

  • Exhibit significantly enhanced laboratory skills

  • Experience science as real scientists would

  • Use and apply the scientific method with meaning

  • Begin to see the interrelatedness of the sciences.

2.  Improved problem-solving skills

  • Application of problem solving skills as a long term endeavor

  • Education in the importance of trial and error

  • Emphasis on experiences rather than memorization.

3.   Hands-on training in:

  • Collaborative and/or creative thinking

  • Applying critical thinking skills to real-time situations

  • Constant experimentation to solve problems at hand

  • Creative application of new ideas

  • Time management and teamwork.

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Who can participate in Science Olympiad

Any public or private, home school group or charter school with grades 6 through 12 is eligible.  Membership is open to all schools and is in no way affected by race, religion, sex, or ethnic origin.  Science Olympiad provides for participation two levels.

  • Middle school students (Grades 6-9) compete in Science Olympiad in Division B tournaments.

  • High school students (Grades 9-12) compete in Science Olympiad in Division C tournaments.

How is Science Olympiad Organized? 

Science Olympiad provides several opportunities for education, tournament and fun.
  • Regional Tournament—Regional tournaments are organized to provide teams the opportunity to compete and qualify for State-level tournaments.  Currently, New Mexico has five Regional tournaments.  Participation in a regional tournament is required for a team to qualify to advance to the State tournament.  All students on a team must be members of that schools student body as defined by the administration of the school.  The team that represents a school at the State Tournament is determined by the coach. 
  • State Tournament—The New Mexico Science Olympiad is the state-level tournament for competition of all qualifying teams at the regional level.    New Mexico Science Olympiad winners, in both B & C divisions, advance to the National Science Olympiad.
  • National Science Olympiad National Science Olympiad provides tournaments for qualifying winners from all 50 states.

 What Happens at Tournaments

    1. Register
    2. Check built devices such as towers into any required impounds.
    3. Check event schedule and verify room locations.
    4. Compete in events.
    5. Events usually last about 50 minutes each.
    6. Most events require 2 or 3 students
    7. Have Fun!

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What Does It Cost for a Team? 

Following is an estimate of the costs involved in coaching a Science Olympiad team.

  • Membership per Year—For one team this is currently $140.  An additional fee of $90 per school is assessed for schools wishing to enter two teams at their Regional Tournament.  This is all the dues a school or group ever pays even if they advance to the National Level.
  • Transportation and food costs to the regional tournament in your area.
  • Coach's Fall Workshop (Optional)—$40 for 2015/16.
  • The rest of the costs are very dependent on the event. Events that require building something do involve more expenses.  The majority of the events require materials that are commonly on hand at schools. A ROUGH estimate of the supplies needed for one team would be about $250. This does not include the membership fee. When purchasing supplies, be sure and tell the business owner the purpose of the purchase. Often times, business owners will donate or discount the cost of any supplies. Some teams solicit businesses to sponsor them with in-kind donations of supplies or financial support such as cash donations.

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General Team Information

  • Teams prepare for tournaments by examining the events to be held at the tournament and deciding which team members will compete in each particular event. You are NOT required to have 2 students per event as the rules state but it does help. Usually a student will be involved in no more than 3 events.
  • Teams compete against teams in their own division.  Middle School does not compete against High School.
  • Teams are composed of up to 15 students. Teams are not required to have 15 students. Build teams with as many students as are interested, especially if you're trying to get Science Olympiad firmly rooted at your school. Load teams with younger students if possible. This promotes long-term growth of Science Olympiad teams and programs.
  • Students must compete on the team of the school they are attending.
  • Students may only be a member of one team at a time.
  • Schools may have two teams compete at the Regional level. However, all teams from the same school must compete at the same regional tournament for qualifying purposes.
  • After the registration deadline (December 15), teams may register to compete at any additional Regional tournament if slots remain and if the Regional Director will allow. Coaches should contact the Regional Director directly to determine if slots are available.

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Forming a Team

  • Educate yourself about Science Olympiad. Regional, State and National Science Olympiad websites contain great information about the history and value of Science Olympiad in our schools.
  • Talk with someone at your school or another school who already has a Science Olympiad team. Your local Regional tournament director may be able to find you another teacher in the area to visit with. 
  • Make the decision to have a team as early in the year as possible.
  • Register your team so that you can receive your coach's manuals early.
  • When the manual arrives, READ IT! 
  • Attend the Coach's Fall Workshop to learn more event skills.
  • Select only a few events to prepare for and compete in during the first year.  Don't try to compete in all events. Pick the events that have the easiest preparation. Year one is for learning.
  • Enlist other interested people who would help you including any teacher no matter what subject area, parents, community people you know, administrators—in short, anyone you can find can help with this.
  • Set the date for the first team meeting with students and begin making announcements and invitations to students to join the team. Talk with other teachers and seek recommendations of students to invite to join the team.  Use some of the activities in your classroom plans to introduce students to the idea of the Science Olympiad. See if you can get other teachers to do the same.
  • Hold the Meeting! The idea is to let students and potential coaches/helpers see what it is all about.  Establish a rough schedule for practices/meetings leading to the tournaments. Have copies of the event rules for students and potential coaches/helpers to look over and keep. Have sign up sheets for each event so students can start to claim the events.
  • Develop a team "Supply Box" which will contain pens, pencils, screw drivers, first aid supplies, etc as you see you need it.
  • Practice with the students at subsequent team meetings and make sure they are following the rules. Give all students a chance to participate. Check online sources for event information, coach's and student chat groups. Specifically, check the Regional, State and National Science Olympiad websites for tips and updates on events.  Order old tests from the National Science Olympiad website to help students practice and study.  DO NOT hesitate to let students participate in events for which they are not prepared. This helps them learn what is expected.
  • Take Pictures!!!
  • Sharpen Skills. Team members can compete against their own recorded times, performance or scores.  Teams can compete against each other within a school or district.  Teams can set up performances or demonstration for general assemblies or at lunch times to promote support for the team and experience in tournament or performance.  All of these advance activities can also be of benefit in selecting the final team members for tournaments. 
  • Stress safety in all events and at all times.  Don't leave students unsupervised, especially when they are working on the construction events.
  • At tournament time, arrange for transportation to your Regional Tournament if you are ready, compete.  If you are not ready, visit the Regional Tournament with your team as a learning experience.  Invite students, parents, teachers, school administrators, etc. to attend tournaments, both as chaperones and to develop them as Science Olympiad supporters.  Take Pictures!!!  Don't STRESS winning, at least not a first. Emphasize participating and having fun at the same time.
  • Debrief with students as soon as you can when they finish an event to learn what was involved to help for next year. Parents are great for doing this for middle school teams while the high school students can usually just write down enough information.  Have parent spectators take notes on events, designs, tournament layouts, etc. Encourage all students who show interest to continue.  You can develop multiple teams and recruit other adults to help if you get lots of interested students.  Interestingly enough, once this activity "catches on" in a school, it is hard to stop. Build a team strong in students and in adult coaches and supporters.

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Finding Support

  • Promote your team to the rest of the school and parents to gain support.  Enlist help from other teachers at your school.  They do not have to be math and science teachers to help you organize or manage your team.  Ask parents and community members to help.  Retired citizens may love helping if you ask.
  • Ask for help from local community colleges, local universities, engineering offices, science related businesses, alumni associations, county extension offices, park service officers, etc.  Many times the people who work there are looking for community service opportunities.
  • Enlist high school students to help with Middle School teams.  Many high schools now are including community service in their programs, and this is an excellent connection to make.
  • Request help from local companies, corporations and industry.  Most are looking for ways to be involved in community service.  Contact human resources departments to make your request.
  • Contact the New Mexico Science Olympiad or your local Regional organization for help.

Financial Support

  • Ask school administration for money.  The price of one football helmet is more than the membership for the entire team.
  • Form a Science Olympiad Booster Club and let your boosters accomplish fundraising.
  • Request financial support from parents, local companies, corporations and industry.  You may get financial support and/or help in other ways.
  • Request money or in-kind donations from other community resources.

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Methods of Preparing Students

Method One: Classroom Activities

Many teachers coaching Science Olympiad teams find using classroom time as the most productive method or preparing.  Some of the construction events are not conducive to this method.  The construction events do use all of the science process skills but they do not always match the classroom science content. It is also difficult to conduct some of those activities safely in a regular classroom setting.

Most of the events fit the curriculum of a middle school science program.  At the high school level individual events have a natural affinity to specific courses such as biology, chemistry, or earth science.  At either level the process skills demanded by the events are beneficial to all students.

Method Two: Special Class

Some schools have developed a semester or year-long class in Science Olympiad.  The advantage of having a dedicated class is that it gives students regular and frequent time to learn the science applications and practice the events.  As attractive as this method sounds, it also has disadvantages such a limiting teams to those students taking the class.

Method Three: After-School Experience

This method is done in an extra curricular fashion.  Events can be scheduled throughout the year after the school day.  The practices or meetings are usually scheduled for about 1 to 2 hours after school.  Some schools start with a monthly meeting and go to a weekly schedule during the two months prior to the regional tournament.  Some schools even meet every day during the last week and on some Saturdays.  Some events can be practiced at informal tournaments or at scheduled and advertised events.

This method should be open to all students but the fact that transportation is needed for students to get home may limit some students from participating.  Some schools have found creative ways to provide this transportation for the students.  In any case, it is difficult to supervise more than 30 students at a time, so this method does limit the number of students involved.  However, by having other teachers or people from the community, you can divide the students into smaller groups and accomplish a lot more.  Usually this method is most effective when other teachers, parents or resource people from the community join the students on days when the events being practiced match their area of expertise.  It is not unusual for a team to have 10-15 people come in to help during the school year.

Method Four: Combined Method

This method is used by most schools.  Although most teachers say that they would like to have a special class for the Science Olympiad, it is difficult to have such a class in many schools.  Instead, the most used method involves combining in-school and after-school activities.  This combination has many advantages.  It involves more students and includes all events. Then those who are more dedicated and want to spend extra time can practice the events and be members of the team that travels to the regional tournament to represent the school.

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What does not work?

  • Selecting only the "A" students from your classes.  Many times students who are not as academically successful in class become some of your best participants, especially in some of the events that require hands-on problem-solving and building activities.
  • Becoming stressed when students do not carry through as they should with an event.  Let the team deal with this.  Peer pressure in this situation is wonderful!
  • Trying to prevent overzealous parent assistance.  Most activities take place on site and the kids compete on their own at the tournaments.  We greatly need parent support and involvement so see interactions between parents and children as a positive thing.
  • Expecting to see an immediately thriving Science Olympiad team in a new school could be an unreasonable goal.  Be patient but persistent.  There are many stories of teams who have now competed at the national level who struggled for the first few years.

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How to motivate students.

  • Involve them in the easier events in class.
  • Show them its fun first!
  • Explain how being involved will add to their understanding of how to "DO GOOD SCIENCE!" outside the classroom.
  • Remind them that Science Olympiad is a great activity for scholarship applications etc.
  • Explaining how they can become "Intelletes", i.e. Intellectual Athletes.
  • Remind them that winners are awarded medals and trophies.

Membership Fee

To participate, a school must join the Science Olympiad Organization by filling out an application located on the New Mexico Science Olympiad website and sending in the registration fee.  This entitles the school to receive a Coach Manual, compete at one regional tournament and be eligible for the State and National Tournaments.  Participation in a Regional Tournament is required for a team to qualify to compete in the State Finals. 

Mailing of Coach's Manuals will commence on September 22, 2015No exceptions.

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National Rules-Team Size

  • Division C (High School) is for grades 9-12.  If students are in a junior high where the 9th grade is on another campus, 9th  graders may participate at the high school they attend.  There is a  maximum of 7 seniors allowed on a high school team.
  • For Division B (Middle School), grades 6-9 are eligible. This means 9th  graders can participate at the high school level, the middle school they previously attended or the middle school they are attending. There is a maximum of 5 ninth grade students is allowed on a middle school team.  A ninth grade student CANNOT compete on a middle AND high school team the same year.

Measuring Success

  • You have done everything. You recruited a team, have been meeting for weeks, and yet your first year teams does not seem to gel in time. Take heart! Remember the first year is for development. Take your students to a Regional or the State tournament as a field trip to get the feel for tournaments and for fun!
  • Do celebrate your successes. Present awards, have ceremonies, pep rallies or banquets, give certificates. Encourage, encourage, encourage!
  • Do plan for next year before this year is over. Let students and others helping see the importance of building the program.

What can you do?

We hope you will consider being involved in Science Olympiad by supporting or coaching a team in your community. The students will learn about science in a hands-on way and practice real life skills such as teamwork and cooperation. They'll have fun and you'll enjoy it too!