Science Olympiad Events

(9 a.m.)

Each team member will build a paper airplane to be flown a distance of 8 meters (26.3 feet), stopping as close as possible to a paper target secured flat to the floor. Airplanes must be of a folded aerodynamic design (crumpled wads of paper do not qualify). This is an accuracy event, and so the object is for the airplane’s nose to rest as close as possible to the center of the target. Flying and sliding straight toward the target is more important than how long the plane stays aloft.

On the day of the event, teams arrive 15 minutes early meet with their coaches. Starting at 9:00 am, teams will be given 10 minutes to practice building and throwing airplanes. Practice materials include sheets of 8 in. x 11 in. printer paper, 5 cm strips of masking tape, and scissors.  At 9:10 am, all practice planes and practice materials will be collected and removed from the competition area.

In the first phase of the competition, students build their airplanes. At this point, coaches are no longer allowed to work with their teams. Each member of a team will be given one clean sheet of 8.5 x 11 inch paper and 5 cm of masking tape with which to build an airplane. Students do not have to use the masking tape. Students may not use any other materials to build their plane. Each student will also be given a pair of scissors to use, if needed. Building does not begin until material and supplies have been passed out to all students.

Starting at the same time, each team member will be given 5 minutes to build a plane for the competition.Teammates may use the same design or a different design in constructing their planes. A student may request a new sheet of paper as long as the request is made within the five-minute building period. However, the student’s first sheet of paper must be removed from the competition area.

All building stops at the end of five minutes. No changes to the plane’s design can be made from this point. Students place their airplanes in a holding box provided for each team. The planes stay in their box until the team is called to the throwing area. Planes are thrown in the next phase of the competition. Each team will designate a first thrower  (Player A) and a second thrower  (Player B). Teams with three members will have a third thrower  (Player C). Two throwing lanes—lane 1 and lane 2--will serve the competition. Team 1 begins by removing their planes from their holding box. Team 1 steps up to the throwing lanes, with Player A standing behind a line, marked by tape, at the beginning of lane 1, and Player B standing behind a line, marked by tape, at the beginning of lane 2.

The teammates throw simultaneously from these designated spots without stepping over the line. Stepping over the line during a throw constitutes a foul, and that throw is disqualified. If the team has a third teammate (Player C), then Player C throws from the second lane once the other planes have come to a complete stop.  Once all of a team’s planes have skidded to a stop, judges use measuring tape to measure the distance from the nose of each plane to the center of its target. Judges record the distance for each player on Team 1’s score sheet, rounding to the nearest whole number. Team 1 players retrieve their planes, place their planes in their holding box, return to their seats, and wait for round 2. Students may not change the design of their plane between rounds. Members of  Team 2 step up to the throwing lanes and proceed as explained above. Judges measure and record distances accordingly.  The remaining teams follow suit until the end of round 1.

Once each team has successfully completed the first round of throws, teams proceed in the same order as before for round 2. As teammates perform their second attempt, judges measure and record distances on team score sheets until every team has completed round 2.

The final phase consists of scoring the results. Judges give the team score sheets to the event coordinator who is responsible for calculating final scores. Each two-person team will have a  final score based on the sum of two measurements: the shorter distance to the target for Player A added to the shorter distance to the target for Player B. Each three-person team will have a final score based on the shorter distance to the target for Player A added to the average of the shorter distances for Player B and C.  

Mystery Box
(9 a.m.)

Students will be asked to identify the characteristics of objects found in various "boxes" using senses other than sight. In this event, the boxes are actually coffee cans with sock halves secured around the rim and inserted into the can to serve as a blind cover for the contents. About 15-20 such cans will be placed at stations, and each can will hold a different mystery object (a rock, a leaf, macaroni, a paper clip, golf ball, etc.).

The children are grouped in teams of 2 to 3. This is a timed event. During the event, at each station, only 1 student on the team will place a hand in the can to investigate the contents.  The other team member(s) will record the responses. The student investigating the contents of the can may do so for only one minute. In that time, the investigating student must whisper to his/her teammate(s) the following data about the mystery item: (1) the weight in grams, plus or minus 20%; (2) the type of material; (3) the length in centimeters, plus or minus 20%; (4) the texture; (5) the number of objects in the can, if applicable and (6) an inference about the identify the object (i.e., what is the object)? A second teammate, with pen, clipboard, and data sheet records the data on a chart. Students alternate the tasks of investigating and data recording as they move from one station to the next so that each student has an equal opportunity to participate in solving the mysteries.

The children will be awarded points for correctly identifying each of the object’s characteristics. A scoring rubric is determined by the event coordinator. The measurable attributes of the object – weight, length, quantity– will be awarded 2 points for correct answers; a correct identification of the object will also be awarded 2 points; and the more qualitative attributes – material and texture – will be awarded 1 point each if answered correctly. The team with the most points wins the event.

When practicing, students should try to get a "feel" for the event. A variety of items can be used as mystery objects. Practice kits (containing practice cans, metric rulers, metric weights, practice scoring sheets, and a scale) will be supplied by the District 64 Science Center and distributed by the event coordinator on a loan basis.  Teams will be responsible for loss or damage to the practice materials.  Two to three quality practices will suffice to prepare students for the event. Filled mystery boxes, clipboards, pencils, and scoring sheets are provided on the day of the event.  

Rubber Band Catapult
(9:00 am)

Teams of two to three students will design and construct a catapult device to shoot a rubber band at a target that is placed within a chosen range. Click here to see a basic catapult design. The target consists of a circular "bulls-eye" with concentric rings, laid flat on the floor.

During the event, teams will also show the judges the chart and graph made during the team’s practice sessions to display their practice results. Before they can practice, teams must first decide on a design for their catapult. Typically, a lot of freedom is given to teams in their design.

A typical catapult consists of a sturdy base, a post, and attached to the post, an arm that can be raised or lowered. Multiple trigger positions can be made on the arm to increase or decrease the tension placed on the rubber band. A sample catapult is available for observation.

During practices and during the event, students need to make sure the shooting arm does not extend beyond the starting line. Teams may select the type of rubber band they wish to use though it may not exceed 22 cm in length. Each team will place the target at the team's desired shooting distance, which can range from 4 to 10 meters. Each team may have two practice shots prior to their first official shot of the event. The team must tell the judge that they are ready to start. Each team will then have three official shots. The  bullseye (shown below) is 5 feet in diameter


with a black bullseye measuring 1 inch in diameter. The yellow circle surrounding the bullseye has a diameter of 20 inches. The first (red) ring around the yellow circle extends the target outward 10 inches, and the outer (blue) ring adds an additional ten inches to the target. Shots resulting in the rubber band touching the black bulls-eye are awarded 15 points; shots resulting in the rubber band touching any part of the yellow ring are awarded 10 points; shots resulting in the rubber band touching any part of the red ring, 7 points; shots resulting in the rubber band touching any part of the blue ring, 5 points.

Points are awarded for where the rubber band stops and lands and not where it first hits. Rubber bands that land across more than one colored area of the target will receive the higher of the points. Points may also be awarded for original catapult design as well as the quality of the practice charts and graphs created by each team.  Click here to see an example of a chart and graph. Students should be able to use the chart and graph to explain their results to the judge. Time will be needed for designing and constructing the catapults well in advance of the Olympiad. In addition, at least three quality practices should adequately prepare students for the actual event. Additional rubber bands, if needed, and targets are provided on the day of the event. 

Egg Drop
(9:00 a.m.)

Teams of 2 or 3 students design, build, and use an egg catcher that will successfully cushion the drop of an egg from ever increasing heights. The team that successfully drops the egg from the greatest height is considered the winning team. Large, raw, grade A eggs are to be used.

At the beginning of the event, each team spends the first ten minutes constructing their egg-catching containers. This part of the competition is timed. Students will be given 10 sheets of computer printer paper, 15 inches of one-sided, transparent Scotch tape (1/2 inch wide), and scissors. No other materials are allowed. Each container must be free-standing; it cannot be held by a person or propped next to an object. When the ten minutes are up, each container will be placed on a large sheet of construction paper for the purpose of transporting the container only (the construction paper is not to be used as part of the egg-catching device).

Teams will line up in designated lanes and will be given an egg which they will keep throughout the competition. Teams will then be called up one at a time to begin the competition. Drop areas are indicated by ladder stations. Judges will be assigned to a ladder and will record successful drops on each team's score sheet. A specially constructed aerodynamic egg drop (AED) platform is mounted to the sides of each ladder at pre-measured heights. Calibrated plumb lines (made of a washer suspended from a long string) are already attached to the AED and are used during the event for the purpose of aiming each drop (students do not need to hold plumb lines). Students are also given a plastic egg to drop to ensure proper alignment of their egg catching device to the egg drop platform.

The first official drop will be from a height of 4 feet. Each subsequent drop increases by one foot. Students who stand on the second step of a ladder or higher must be “spotted” by the judge assigned to that station. An egg may land and roll out of the team’s egg catcher. As long as there is no evidence of breakage, the team advances. Egg catcher devices may not be rebuilt once the competition has started.  However, paper may be fluffed or straightened between drops, and tape may be repressed if it becomes detached. Teams whose eggs survive each drop without any detectable cracks, fractures, dents, or chips will continue in the competition. If students are successful at 5 feet, they will advance to the 6 foot drop.  Drop heights at 6 and 7 feet will be indicated along the side of the ladder.

Teams that survive the round on the 6-foot ladder advance to 8-foot ladder stations. In this round, only the event coordinator, Olympiad chairperson, or his designee may ascend the 8-foot ladder to drop the egg. The team whose egg catcher successfully cushions the drop of an egg from the greatest height, without damage to the egg, wins the event. If, at any point, the egg becomes dented, cracked or broken, the team is eliminated from the event. Accidental egg breakages not resulting from the competition may be replaced at the discretion of the event coordinator.

In the event of a tie, and only if time permits, the event coordinator may allow for a tie-breaker drop from a 10-foot ladder at heights up to 12 feet. Once again, only an event official may ascend this ladder.

Several days before the Olympiad, students should experiment with various designs before deciding on the most effective one for the actual event. Time will be needed to make several prototype catchers as well as to practice aiming and dropping the eggs. Two to three quality practices should suffice to prepare students for the actual event. Eggs, paper, tape, scissors as well as the AED’s with plumb lines and plastic eggs will be provided on the day of the event.

Please note that on the day of the event only student participants will be allowed in the designated roped area where team members gather to construct their egg-catching containers. Coaches are not allowed to advise teams during the competition. Additional information for coaches: click hereAdditional information for judges click here.  

(9 a.m.)

Teams of two or three students will construct a structure using only 50 drinking straws and 25 straight pins. The objective is to create the tallest, free-standing structure out of the provided materials within 30 minutes. Normally, students are grouped in teams of two. If there are teams of three students, only two of the three are allowed to work on the structure at any given time. In teams of three, one student must rotate in and out at announced 10-minute intervals to give each student an opportunity to contribute to the structure.

The structures must stand long enough for a judge to measure its height. Up to three measurements are allowed, and the highest of these will be taken.  Wavering of the structure is allowed, but if a structure falls down it is disqualified. Practice time should be devoted to experimenting with different construction designs as well as planning the building process. Two to three quality practices should suffice to prepare students for the actual event.

During competition, students will be allowed to stand on a chair or a ladder if necessary to complete the construction. Students should never climb a ladder unattended; a coach must "spot" any student when on a ladder. During competition, no help from parents or coaches is allowed and only participants and judges will be allowed inside the competition area. Judges will be responsible for spotting students on chairs or ladders during competition. Ten minutes are allowed at the beginning of the session for teams to write down their plans without help from coaches, and written plans may not be brought to the Olympiad. Gloves or thimbles may be worn, but scissors or other tools are not allowed. Straws may be cut using a pin. Materials for practice may be obtained from the event coordinator or the District Science Center. Straws and pins will be provided on the day of the event.