Frequently Asked Questions

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General FAQs

Why should my school have a Science Olympiad team?

  • Science Olympiad builds skills in Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM).
  • Students can experience interesting subjects beyond their grade level.
  • The program is structured to promote parent involvement.
  • Science Olympiad provides recognition for student achievement.

How can I find the elementary event rules on this website?

Click on Events on the left side of this page, then click on Elementary Event Rules. The page that opens allows you to download and print the entire current rulebook, or the rules for specific individual events.

How many coaches may my team have?

Each team has only one official coach (Often referred to as the "Head Coach"). This is the person whose name appears on the registration form sent to Science Olympiad. Teams may have as many additional assistant coaches as they wish. They are often called "Event Coaches".

I have 25 students on my team, can I bring all of them to this tournament?


Some district tournaments allow extra (or alternate) team members to participate, but team size at our tournament is strictly limited to 16 team members.


I was told that I need to provide two adult volunteers for the day of the competition.

It takes a large number of people to conduct an event of this magnitude. We need many volunteers to make things work.
All teams are required to provide at least two adult volunteers on the day of the competition. Prior to the tournament, you will be notified of the time, place and for how long .

May our team picture have all of the students that participate in Science Olympiad at our school or is it limited to the 16 that will actually be competing?

The content of the team picture is left to each individual school. You may include anyone you wish.



My child lost the latest memo from our team's coach. How do I get a copy?

If the memo was from your team's coach, you will need to contact them for a copy. All memos from Macomb Elementary Science Olympiad are automatically distributed via email to the person named as the team's coach on the registration form. The coach is responsible for distributing the information ...

Event Coaches and parents should consider subscribing to the Macomb Science Email list and recieve important information directly to their inbox.


Click Here!

What are "Open Events", who can participate and do we have to participate in them?

These events are held in conjunction with the tournament and open to anyone who wishes to participate. They are not included in the tournament scoring.
Many are organized on a space available, walk-in basis.
Additional information is published on our website, in coach's memos or the tournament program.

What is the age requirement for coaches?

The team's head coach must be an adult over 21. Science Olympiad has no restrictions on who may be assistant/event coaches.

Check with your school's administration to determine if they have any additional requirements. Some high schools give credit for community service and students may like to volunteer.

When should I start recruiting for next year's competition?

You may begin anytime. Events for the next year's competition are announced around October. The Event Coach Workshop is held in January and it is desirable to have as many of your assistant coaches attend as possible.

You can find more information in the NEW Head Coach Workshop presentation.


Where can I find old test questions?

We do not release County test, however some events have their tests from District Tournaments released after the last tournament done.
An archive of those tests is availale on our website under the "Resources" menu button 


Where can I find the practice Scantron sheet?

You can tell if an event will use Scantron answer sheets by checking that events web page
Practice Scantron sheets can be found on the web site under the Head Coach Tools menu button.

Are students suppose to know only the path of sound, light ,air and blood ? Are they suppose to identify those parts on models .


The students should know the path of light through the eye, the path of an inhaled air molecule, the path of sound through the ear, and the path of blood through the heart. They should also be able to identify the parts involved in the different pathways. A handout containing this information was passed out at the Coaches Clinic in January.


On any of the tests, are points awarded differently if students answer a question wrong, compared to not answering the question at all?

On any Macomb Science Olympiad test, not answering a question will result in the same score as answering the question wrong.


Students are not penalized for guessing if they are uncertain of an answer.  It would be in their best interest to not leave any questions blank, especially multiple choice questions.



Are Alternate Teams allowed to use a device built by the Primary Team from the same school?

1)      For the regional tournament (May 20), every registered team of up to 16 students must have its own device.  A few of those registered teams are the 2nd team for a school, and are classified as an “Alternate Team”.  Two devices from the same school may be very similar in design, but the students who compete are still expected to make their own device.  Every device must be marked with the Team number.  Accordingly, only one Event Team will be allowed to compete with a given device at that tournament. 


2)      At practice tournaments, teams are generally allowed to register more than 16 students, and have “Alternate Team Members” compete.  In these situations, there may be more than one Event Team registered for a given event and team number.  Those multiple event teams may use the device that has their team number.  For more information on participation rules at practice tournaments, see the information published on the Macomb Science Olympiad website, or contact the practice tournament director.

Anatomy FAQs

Where are the anatomy models kept in the MCC Learning Center?

The Learning Center is located within the Library, in the C Building on MCC Center Campus.


The models are kept in a room behind the front desk at the Learning Center.


Please note:

1) You must make an appointment to use study materials at the Learning Center, and models may only be used in the Learning Center.

2) The services provided by the Learning Center for this event are strictly for Macomb County residents.  You must present a valid ID.

3) The Learning center will close for renovations on May 13, and the materials will no longer be available, one week before the tournament.



How many models or diagrams will be at each station?

Typically, there are one or two models per station. We try to minimize the number of models per station because of space constraints. We try to avoid the use of diagrams when possible.

Will you provide model keys for the models in the learning center?

If the model keys are available, we will provide them. Use at your own risk. The terminology may not be exactly the same as in the rules for the event. We try to used the simplest terminology when possible. Some structures may have more than one name.

In how many boxes are the models stored?

There is no set number of boxes. We usually place one example of each model in the boxes in the Learning Center. The boxes are organized according to the organ systems. There can be more than one box per organ system. You may have to specify which models you would like to check out each time. A list of available materials will be available at the front desk of the Learning Center.

During the test, do both students have access to each station at the same time?

Yes. We may utilize tape to delineate the area for each station in the competition.

Why hasn’t a newer example test been posted on the Macomb SO website since 2013?

We do not release the Regional Anatomy test.  The example test to which you refer was written for a practice tournament, by someone other than the Macomb Regional Event Supervisor.  However, it is a good example of the type of questions and level of difficulty the students will experience.  Please note that we try to avoid the use of diagrams.

Should the participants learn about the meaning for each part in the body? Does correct spelling count too?

You do not have to know the meaning of the word. Spelling will count for the tie breaker only.

Amazing Arthropods FAQs

When contradictory information is provided, what takes precedence?

The order of precendence is: 

  1) the event rules (which includes what is posted here in the FAQ)

  2) the study guide

  3) information found elsewhere, including at links we have posted


May soft body specimens and very small specimens be presented in a vial with alcohol?

Yes, they may be presented in a vial in isopropyl  alcohol.  They should be attached in the display box with pins or glue.

UPDATED May larval stages be used in the specimen collection? For instance if we found a Dragonfly naiad by pond dipping, can that meet the criteria for Odonata?

Quite a few larval stages look very similar, making them difficult to identify.


Any immature specimens of species which would undergo either complete or incomplete metamorphosis will not be accepted.  That would include the Dragonfly which is an example of a species which undergoes incomplete metamorphosis.


However, an immature specimen of a species which undergoes gradual metamorphosis will be accepted.  


This is a change from what is published in the study guide which only allows adult specimens, and from previous postings here.

UPDATED Will students need to know about sub-orders?

Students are not required to know the suborder level of detail.

UPDATED What is meant by "basic biology"?

Students should be familiar with habitats, what they eat, the time of year they are active, the type of metamorphosis, and their ecological role (free living, parasite, etc.).

UPDATED How will duplicates of the same type of specimen be scored?

In 2016, duplicates of the same specimen were awarded 1 point each, but for 2017, duplicate specimens will not be awarded points.

Will the specimen collection be part of the practice (District) competitions?

No.  The practice competitions will only include  the Part 1 multiple choice test.  Students should not bring their specimen collection to the practice tournament because they will not be evaluated.  We are not able to ensure consistent feedback across all practice tournaments. 

Will students be allowed to compete if they do not have a specimen collection to submit?

Yes. However, the student will not receive any of the possible 92 points (30% of overall) awarded for the collection portion. 

Designed and built by the students policy

We have received numerous questions and concerns about whether adults will feel compelled to build Arthropod specimen collections for their students, and the details of what is allowed by policy.  

The intent and practice of  our "designed and built by the students" policy is to let students have the experience.  Please resist the temptation for perfection, or the need to win at all costs.


Our priorities:

1) Your student should be safe.  There may be a few instances where a tool is required that is too advanced for your student to operate.  Cutting a piece of wood might be a good example of this.  Even so, you should involve the student in the planning and design work, and confirmation that the item turned out as planned.


2) Your student should do the work.  That doesn't mean you should stand back and let your student flounder.  Coaches have an important role in teaching skills.  Organize your work so you can demonstrate a skill, and then give your student the opportunity to practice.  You might need a few extra bugs to pin to learn from.  

It is not acceptable for you to do the same work as your student, in parallel, and then submit the coach's effort as the student's.  For instance, if the student doesn't take as good of a photgraph as the coach, it is not acceptable to substitue the coach's.  Digital photography is almost costless, so let your student practice.



Is it okay to use specimens that are found dead?

Yes.  A dead specimen can be used in your collection provided that the specimen is not missing vital body parts that are required in identifying. 

Are students allowed to move to the next station if they finish before the time limit is announced?

No.  At all station-based events, students are expected to stay at their current station until they are told to move, regardless of whether they have finished the questions, or whether the station in front of them is open.



Is it appropriate to submit a specimen box that does not have a removable lid?

No.  In the process of judging the specimen collection, the Supervisor will want to be able to open it, and possibly remove a specimen.  Using a box that does not open will limit the Supervisor's ability to award full points.

Should students be able to recognize both juvenile and adult forms of the organisms?

They should know the juvenile forms of the insects listed by name. They should also be able to identify, if shown a juvenile or adult specimen, which form metamorphosis it goes through.

What size specimen is too big to glue to tab rather than pin? If a specimen is being stubborn and is not "relaxing", can it be glued to tab instead, even if it is large?

If a pin can go through it without destroying the specimen, use the pin. If it's too small for a pin or not relaxing and you are nervous the specimen would crumble, a paper tab would suffice. Make certain that the materials used are stiff and will not allow the insect to wiggle and bounce around, and be destroyed.

What types of questions might be asked in the subject area of "taxonomy"?

Questions may focus on Carolus Linneaus and the hierarchical naming system that he created.

May we purchase insect larva online for the students to grow to adult life stages in an aquarium at home, and then use as pinned specimens?

Yes you may, provided that the specimens are from our local region.  The weather is warming up quite nicely and there are plenty of bugs emerging now so you may find that it is unecessary. 

How should the specimen collection be labeled? Will it be returned?

Please list your school name, team number, and student names on your collection.


There will be a time posted in the final tournament schedule for collection pickup, after they have been judged and scores reported.

Is a worker bee or ant considered to be an adult? Can we include them in our collection?

Yes, worker bees and ants are in the adult phase, and would be accepted in a specimen collection.



May we include an insect in our collection that is from an order that is not listed in the rules? For instance, a Mayfly, from the order Ephemeroptera?

Yes, and points would be awarded for the insect collection.  However, the order Ephemeroptera will not be included on the written exam.

Will our team be able to get feedback on their collection at the practice tournament?

No.  Please do not bring your insect collection to the practice tournament.

The Event Supervisor will not consistently attend the practice events, and there may be no one present with Entomology experience.

Bridging The Gap FAQs

What are the dimensions of the end supports of the testing apparatus?

The platform area on each end of the testing apparatus will be about 12" x 12".   These platforms will be a few feet off the ground.

May the ball hang below the bridge?

Yes. The tennis ball may hang below the bridge at its midpoint. The ball is not required to be the highest point of the bridge.

How will the bridge be judged if a piece falls off during testing?

There is no penalty for a piece of the bridge falling off.   However, the bridge may not be supported by a piece that is touching the floor, or by anything other than the ends which touch the top of the testing support platforms.

Is it required that the bridge have a particular construction where it rests on the platform at each end, like pillars?

There are no requirements for a specific bridge design.  The platform on each side that the bridge rests on will be a flat surface.   Each bridge will be unique and determined by the student team.

How will a team be scored if its bridge extends past the supports?

If after adjusting the testing apparatus to the desired span, the students' bridge extends beyond the support platforms (to the rear or the sides), it will be classified as Tier 2, and ranked with the bridges that did not support a tennis ball.


What materials will students receive? How many skewers or straws? How large of a paper bag?

The material list and quantity will not be known by the participants until they enter the competition room.  That information will not be posted outside the competition room.  There will be a list posted in the competition room where students can see it, to allow them to double check that their kit is complete.



If at the tournament, the students receive the materials in a bag, can the bag material be used in constructing the bridge?

Students may use any of the materials provided in, and including, the container or bag in the construction of their bridge.

Charged Up FAQs

Will there be questions around finding or calculating Voltages or voltage drops across components (resistors / bulbs) in a SERIES circuit?

 There could be measurements or calculations on series circuits. If there is, it will just be simple addition or subtraction.

Besides knowing the symbol, what will the students need to know about diodes?

Know their effect on a circuit. They may have to identify it's use in a circuit, ie Will a bulb light or not. They may be asked to use on in a circuit.

Please confirm the schematic for normally open and normally closed switches? Specifically the arrow direction.

The arrow on a switch points in the direction of activation... So a Normally Open Switch will point from an open position to a closed position.

Will students need to know how to draw a schematic incorporating SPDT, DPST or DPDT switches?

Yes- there could be questions on SPDT, DPST, DPDT in the drawing section. You can see examples in the extravaganza handout.

Will there be questions on calculating Resistance, Current or voltage based on the data given or circuit diagrams?

Possibly - but it would only require addition and subtraction.No complex calculations (as in resistance of a parallel circuit)

Will the competitor need to memorize the resistor color code?

Yes. This year there will be some questions on the resistor color code

Can students bring a pre-constructed circuit tester or a multimeter?

They will be told specifically what piece of equipment to use at each station. The "Multimeter" Station and the "Build a Circuit Tester" Station have been separate stations for many years now to avoid confusion, so they would not have the option to construct a meter or use a multimeter at the same station. The Circuit Tester is never pre-constructed, but would have to be built by the students at that station.

The Mystery Cards card could be either at the "Multimeter" Station (the students would be instructed to use the Multimeter to answer the questions at that station)and/orthe "Build a Circuit Tester" Station (the students would be instructed to Build a Circuit Tester to answer any questions at that station).

Below is the Heading on Station #4 and Station #5 from the 2015 County Event:

Station #4 – Meters: Multiple Choice

Use the Meter & the Materials in the box to answer the questions

Station #5 – Circuit Tester

If necessary, build a Circuit Tester to answer the questions at this station

When calculating resistance, will the kids be required to calculate the tolerance value?

Example  submitted with FAQ:
if the resistance of a resistor is 15, with a tolerance of 10%, will they need to identify the resistance as 13.5 - 16.5 Ohms, or will 15 +/- 10% be sufficient?


Supervisor's response:


Your question would be broken down into 2 parts on the exam

     What is the resistance of the resistor shown? Answer 15 W

     What is the tolerance of the resistor shown? Answer +/- 10%

When calculating resistance, will the kids be required to calculate the tolerance value?

Example  submitted with FAQ:
if the resistance of a resistor is 15, with a tolerance of 10%, will they need to identify the resistance as 13.5 - 16.5 Ohms, or will 15 +/- 10% be sufficient?


Supervisor's response:


Your question would be broken down into 2 parts on the exam

     What is the resistance of the resistor shown? Answer 15 W

     What is the tolerance of the resistor shown? Answer +/- 10%

Will the resistors all be four band, or will it also include 5 band?

4 Band. 
I'm looking to see if the students understand the color code identification system.
The 5th band doesn't cover any new concepts and only adds some confusion for some students

Can you provide an example of a question they may have related to the resistor color code?

What is the resistance of the resistor shown below?

230 ohm resistor

     Answer: 230 Ω

What is the tolerance of the resistor shown above?

    Answer: +/- 2%

Will kids have to memorize resistor color codes?

I generally like to ease into a new topic. A color code chart will be at the station.

To maintain uniformity and fairness, the students are not allowed to bring any reference material or equipment. Everything they need will be provided.

My Charged-Up kit has a motor and propeller. Will motors be used at the tournament?

The motor and propeller are included in the Charged-Up Exploration Kits to add another interesting element to experiment with when learning about polarity and the effect of different voltages. (And it’s fun)
We WILL NOT be using a motor at the tournaments.


Click here to see the printed insert packed in the kit.

Crash Car Eggspert FAQs

Does this mean the egg may not be wrapped, covered, or attached to the car using the given material? It will merely"sit" in the cage built? Can it be wedged in between the given material.

The Egg should not be wrapped or covered. Egg should be able to come out of the Structure as a free fall after they run each Slope to ensure its not leaking.

This video could be useful to you! 

Is it against the rules to blow up the balloons?

There are no issues and you can blow up the balloons

How much of each item needs to be used?

You can use one all the items in the brown bag. Not everything from the bag needs to be used

Will I know what will be in the bag before build ?.

No List will NOT be published ahead of time. 

Is that okay if kids use all 25 mins for construction? Or for the tie breaker does these construction time also counts?

Yes the Construction time is a critical factor in Scoring. Please review the rules page that explains how scoring is done

Crime Busters FAQs

Will a team be marked lower if they identify 2 suspects as guilty if the correct answer is one of them, even if the evidence is correctly evaluated?

Points are awarded for identifying the correct suspect(s). If innocent suspects are also named, a fraction of those points are taken off.

Are there any restrictions regarding the style, size, or power of the magnifying glass?

The magnifying glass must be one piece, and work without being plugged into an outlet.

How will the Chromatogram portion be scored?

A high-scoring chromatogram will have six neat designs that implicate the correct suspect(s) and travel straight up the paper running into each other.

If a student already wears glasses, do they still need to wear safety goggles?

Yes, splash-proof goggles which can fit over prescription glasses are required. There should not be any gap between the goggles and the student's face. Goggles which look like glasses are not adequate.

Will the fingerprints be identified as from a right or left hand, or by the finger names?

The fingerprints may not be labeled. Students should learn how to identify them.

Will students use rubbing alcohol to test the powders?

No. Rubbing alcohol is used only for chromatography.

Will students be asked to identify the types of finger prints, e.g., arch, loop, whorl?

No. However, it may be beneficial to mention this vocabulary when learning about fingerprints to make it easier to describe them.

How will students transfer powders to the paper? Will they have to pour it?

Students will be provided one plastic spoon for each cup.

Will fingerprints be presented as actual size?

Yes.  They will not be scaled.

Will the number of each part on the test match up with the numbers on the Scantron?

Yes.  All the Scantron questions will be implications of Suspects A-E.

1 will be for the powders portion, 2 will be for the chromatography, 3-5 will be for the finger, foot, and tire prints respectively, 6 will be for unspecified evidence, and 7 will be for final criminal implication.

How are points distributed in Part 2 of the test?

Half of the points come from performing the chromatography experiment correctly, and the other half comes from implicating the correct suspect(s).

How much time will students have to take the test?

All students will be given the same amount of time.  Our intent is to provide 25 minutes.

May the students bring anything to help secure the chromatography paper at the proper height above the rubbing alcohol (tape, binder clip, etc.)?

No. The students will be provided everything they need. To see how this will look in the testing room, view the chromatography video we've posted.

How many plastic cups are the students given for testing liquids in the powders?

There are at least 18 cups at each station, but there will likely be many more.  The students will have more than enough and may ask for more if needed.

If hair samples are used, would they be real hair or a photograph?

The students could be presented with either.  If they are physical samples, they will be presented as a microscope slide.  If they are photographs, they will be very magnified.

At the competition, how many grams of powder will be in a cup? How much water will teams be provided?

Cups will be filled with about 15 grams of powder total.  Teams will be given about 10 mL of water.  Students should learn to only use drops of water when experimenting.

Might "unspecified evidence" include the subject of blood?

The test will be age appropriate.

For example, blood found at the crime scene could be from the criminal accidentally getting a paper cut while committing the crime. No blood spatter analysis or other information relating to violent crime will be included.  Students could be required to match characteristics of blood, such as blood types and DNA. 

Will students be scored for naming all of the powders contained in each of the suspect containers? Or is the powder identification practice sheet just for their own use to aid in suspect identification?

Students will be scored on their ability to name all powders in all six cups.  There is a handwritten portion of the test for this, separate from the Scantron portion.

Are the liquids added to the powders on the black paper? Or are spot trays available?

Liquids should be added to the powders in the plastic cups.  Students will be provided spoons and extra empty cups to split up their samples and conduct tests on them.   The black paper is helpful for looking at dry powders up close.

Will the students be expected to write an essay to support their answer?

No.  The only written part is the identification of powders.

A portion of the Crime Buster answer sheet will be "Scantron"-like

This is a change from how students recorded answers on last year's test.  It is not a Scantron form, but is extremely similar.

See an example of this new format.

Can photographs be included on the notes page that each team may bring?

Yes, any information may be included, provided that it is printed or written directly on the page.

How will the Scantron form be used for recording the powders in each cup? Also, how will it apply to the other categories of evidence?

Powder identification is still written and hand scored as before.  Every "implication question utilizes the Scantron, and will be labled to match the form.  Students will be given a numbered list of very specific implication questions to avoid confusion.  For example, students might be asked which suspect(s) has the same powder(s) on them that were found at the crime scene.  Similarly, they could be asked which suspect's ink sample on the chromatogram matches the ink sample from the crime scene.

If more than one suspect matches a particular piece of evidence, how will students be able to answer multiple suspects on a Scantron form? Will the answers have predetermined specific combinations?

In our traditional Scantron, students could only pick one answer among A thru E, and multiple correct answers would require the answers to include the specific combination as one potential choice.


An important aspect of this new "Scantron" format is the ability to score multiple correct answers in the same question.  For example, if both B and D are correct matches, the student would be expected to mark both.  Because of this new scoring capability, any combination could be answered.  Students will be expected to select only the correct matches, and may lose points for answering incorrectly.



Can you provide more information to help us interpret the practice tournament scores? For instance, what is Part A, and how many points were possible?

The scoring sheet lists parts A - G, and the rules lists parts 1 - 7.  Those directly correlate.  We changed the rules and the test this year to reduce confusion for the students, but the scoring program hasn't caught up yet.  


Compare your score to the possible points: 

Part A = Part 1: 38 points

Part B = Part 2: 18 points

Part C = Part 3: 6 points

Part D = Part 4: 3 points

Part E = Part 5: 5 points

Part F = Part 6: 15 points

Part G = Part 7: 15 points

Should we expect multiple criminals to have the same matches in every section of the test?

They might or might not have the same matches.  Students should only implicate two criminals if they see two suspects with the same number of implications over all sections.


Is chalk the same as calcium carbonate?

Yes, however the calcium carbonate provided on the test will be in powder form and uncolored. Keep in mind that chalk may contain extra ingredients besides calcium carbonate.

Is Tums the same as calcium carbonate?

Tums contains calcium carbonate as the active ingredient, however it will likely contain extra ingredients that can interfere with reactions.

Where can I purchase calcium carbonate?

Powdered calcium carbonate is available in bulk from several sources on Amazon at a cheap price.  You may also find it at some pharmacy stores in powder form, or you may have to buy it in tablet form and crush it. Chalk can be a viable substitute if it is pure calcium carbonate.

Grasp-A-Graph FAQs

Will the test include questions on ratios?

The term "ratio" is unlikely to appear, but the idea will be included.  For instance, a question which asks "which one is twice as much?".

Please clarify what is meant by if something takes place "over time", and when a bar or line graph is appropriate.

Bar graphs are descriptive.  They compare discrete amounts of data such as the number of things.  They help us make generalizations and see differences in the data.  


Line graphs show a relationship between two variables.  They are useful for showing trends in data, especially continuous changes over time, and for making predictions.


Data which is continuous can become discrete if it is aggregated.   For instance, we could measure the number of phone calls received each hour, or each day.  If we add the data for each month together and display it by month, the data is no longer continuous.  By hour, the data would more appropriately be displayed with a line graph.  By month, the data would be more appropriately be displayed with a bar graph.



What type of answer sheet will be used for the multiple choice part of the test?

We are switching to ZipGrade starting at the practiice tournaments (March 2017)

Precision Ping Pong Propulsion FAQs

If the elastomeric propulsion piece fails (breaks), can we have replacements?

Yes- If you include them with the equipment at impound. They should be easy (quick) due to the 5 minute to shoot all 10 balls.

Can we have multiple devices, due to the possibility of differing bands providing different distances?

No But if you choose to use replacement "rubber bands" they should either be all mounted on a single device or easily switched out due to the time constraint. Also they should be impounded with all necessary components.

Can a ramp be incorporated into the device design?

I would say that the basic premise is for the balls to be launched through the energy imparted to the ball by the elastomeric component. If the intent is to use that component over a ramp edge I would say No for two reasons. First you are not using the energy from the band to 'propel' the balls, and second I do not believe that the potential energy of the ramp is sufficient to move the balls up to and in the target area.

Does a ball that ACCIDENTALLY falls to the floor BEHIND the line while shooting count as a shot?

If the ball falls BEHIND the line I would say pick it up and fire the ball
If it crosses AHEAD of the line, it would count as a MISFIRE and then would NOT score.

If a team changes their elastomeric components to vary distance, WHEN do they make the change?

At the launch line. The clock will be running, so it must be quick and easy to do. 

Can a scoring example be posted to confirm our understanding of the scoring rules?

White Ping Pong balls (7) which enter the wading pool are worth 10 points each OR 70 points (7x10)
Plain Orange Ping Pong balls (2) which enter the wading pool are worth 3 times 10 each OR 60 (2x3x10) points
Striped Orange Ping Pong balls (1) which enter the wading pool is worth 5 times 10 each OR 50 (1x5x10) points
Total if all are in the wading pool would be 70 + 60 + 50 = 180 points

White Ping Pong balls (7) which enter the center bucket are worth 25 points each OR 175 points (7x25)
Plain Orange Ping Pong balls (2) which enter the center bucket are worth 3 times 25 each OR 150 points (2x3x25)
Striped Orange Ping Pong balls (1) which enter the center bucket is worth 5 times 25 each OR 125 points (1x5x25)
Total if all in the center bucket would be 175 + 150 + 125 = 450 points (most possible points)

If you are late with impound 20 points will be deducted from the Teams total score

I saw a store bought slingshot device demonstrated at the workshop. Is that acceptable?

The commercial slingshot attached to a wood base that you saw at the Ping Pong workshop would be ranked in the 2nd tier. 

At the start whistle, can you move the launcher BACKWARD further away from the marked launch line?

Nor part of the launcher can be closer than the marked launch line. There is no restriction on how far back you can be.

Is a Data Chart required for Competition?

The purpose of the Data Charting is to allow competitors quick access to information allowing them to set up quickly for a given assigned distance. If there is a means that that information can be accessed on the Launch Device rather than a document, this is acceptable. 

A separate data chart is allowed, but not required.

All Launchers, add'l parts, balls and any documents MUST all be checked in at IMPOUND

Must the launcher be placed on the floor or can it be hand-held or on a flat (non-ramp) platform or stand?

The launcher may be hand held, may sit on the floor or be supported on a platform
Any of the above solutions are acceptable

Can a clothespin (that has a metal spring) be used as the trigger to release the rubber band? The clothespin does not provide any of the stored energy release, but it does have a metal spring..

It is acceptable to use the clothespin with a metal or plastic spring
It is being used as a release mechanism only
So long as the stored energy is provided by an elastomeric product to propel the ping pong balls

Will there be anything in the inflatable wading pool during the competition (e.g. blankets, foam, water) to absorb the impact of approaching ping pong balls? Will the bottom section of the pool be inflated?

There is nothing it the pool or pail to inhibit bouncing. The pool bottom will be inflated.

From the published rules- Scoring Section:
1. When the final whistle sounds the Event Supervisor will count the balls, by color contained inside the target. Any ball that is outside the target at the final whistle will have no value, even if it was in earlier and was somehow ejected.

I see under FAQ on question no. 3 that you cannot have a ramp. Our design has a ramp like structure to adjust and stabilize the height of the propeller . The propeller works totally on elastomeric force i.e. The ball gets propelled totally by the the elas

It sounds as though the "Ramp" is actually a wedge used to drive / adjust the angle of some portion of the device
So long as it is not driving the ping pong balls, then this would be acceptable under that circumstance

Do the ping pong balls need to be attached to the launcher somehow when we impound our launcher ?

There is nothing in the current rules which require the balls to be attached to the launcher (simply checked in)
They can be contained in a separate bag so long as they are checked in with the launcher during impound
The check in volunteer or the supervisor should be able to verify that only 10 ping pong balls are being impounded

The suggestion for a pan or container was made at Extravaganza solely as a suggestion to facilitate the holding of the ping pong balls prior to shooting so as not to have an ball cross the Launch line by accident

Can the ball bounce on the floor first before it goes in to the pool/bucket.

Yes the ping pong balls may bounce on the floor before entering the target area
In fact the balls may bounce once, more than once or can also, NOT bounce on the floor and fall directly into the target areas

Can a tape measure be included with the impounded items and used during the competition?

Only the launcher, marked balls and data log (if they have one).

No separate tools can be brought in.

But- if a range setting aid (like a tape measure or string) is attached to the launcher, it is considered part of the launcher.


What if a tool (screw driver, pliers, wrench) are needed to make modification to the device?

Elements required to operate or adjust the launcher must be physically attached to the launcher in some fashion 
They can not be loose

Is there a size limit for the launcher? How wide are the launch lines?

There is no size limit for the launchers
The line width is about 18", but launchers can be wider (or narrower) than that.

Is it required that the students be present during impound, or can a coach/parent impound the device on behalf of the team?

The contestants do not have to be present
As a reminder everything required to affect a launch including the launcher, data charts, ping ping balls, any necessary tools ( must be attached to the launcher) and Goggles for safety must all be impounded together

If my school has more than one team participating, may they use the same device?

In general, no.  Each team that has a separate team number must have their own device.



For the regional tournament (May 20), every registered team of up to 16 students must have its own device.  A few of those registered teams are the 2nd team for a school, and are classified as an “Alternate Team”.  Two devices from the same school may be very similar in design, but the students who compete are still expected to make their own device.  Every device must be marked with the Team number.  Accordingly, only one Event Team will be allowed to compete with a given device at that tournament.



At practice tournaments, teams are generally allowed to register more than 16 students, and have “Alternate Team Members” compete.  In these situations, there may be more than one Event Team registered for a given event and team number.  Those multiple event teams may use the device that has their team number.  For more information on participation rules at practice tournaments, see the information published on the Macomb Science Olympiad website, or contact the practice tournament director.

Are safety glasses required to participate in this event?

Yes, as stated in the rules. Side shields (whether clip on or fixed) are preferred.

Is auto loading of the Ping Pong balls allowed?

No. Page 1-Item 3 prohibits this, and states that balls must be loaded individually.

Reflection Relay FAQs

Can we draw lines on the paper in the 2D challenge?

The white piece of paper is for the students to do whatever they need to in order to complete the task.  They can write on it, tape things to it, whatever they think is necessary.

What is the diameter of the target in the 3D challenge (Part One)?

The red and green targets are approximately 11 inches in diameter and are made from construction paper.

Is the target always in the vertical plane (perpendicular to the floor)?

The target might be positioned anywhere in the room - on the wall, on the floor, on the ceiling - not necessarily perpendicular to the floor.

What is the height of the permanent mirror?

The permanent mirror will be fixed to the wall. It's height can ranng efrom 6 inches lower than the light source to 6 inches higher than the light source.

For the 3D challenge, during the 1 minute preparation time, will the light source be ON or it will be turned ON when the clock starts?

The team can use UP TO 1 minute to prepare with the room lights on, and the flashlight is off. 
That prep time is recorded and used as a tie breaker if necessary

The lights in the room are turned off, and we give the student's eyes time to adjust to the dark
The judge counts down 3-2-1 and the light source (flashlight) is turned on at the same time that the clock starts for competition.

Will part 1 and part 2 be in the same room?

No, they will do part one in one room – just the team and their judges (and any spectators from that school).  They will be in another room where a few teams will be working on Part 2.  Spectators will be allowed into the part 2 room also (as long as they can watch in silence).

Is there a suggested way for the students to hold the mirrors in the 3 D challenge (PART 1)?

Students need to experiment to see which way is the best way to hold the mirrors.  They need to think about how their feet should be positioned, how their hands are positioned, as well as how high they should hold the mirror.  Whichever way is the most comfortable and most stable will vary with each student.

Is there a suggested order for passing the light beam in the 3 D challenge (PART 1)?

There is no set order; however you may want to put your steadiest student holding the first mirror since he/she will have to hold the light steady for the longest amount of time.  

How big of a room should we practice in for the 3 D challenge (PART 1)?

You should practice in a room about the size of a normal classroom.  There should be plenty of furniture in the room.  The furniture serves as obstacles that the students will have to work around.  The room at the college will be a classroom with normal classroom furniture in it.  Students will not be able to move the furniture.

Can the students lean on the furniture in order to hold the mirror still in the 3 D challenge (PART 1)?

Yes, they can, however they should not practice this.  They won’t know what kind of furniture is in the room ahead of time.  Depending on furniture to hold them steady may not work if the furniture is different from what they are used to.

How will the Supervisor know when the team is done planning their strategy for the 3D challenge in the 3 D challenge (PART 1)?

You should have a team leader chosen before you get to the tournament. I will ask the team leader to tell me when they are ready.  Remember, the planning time is recorded and used as a tie breaker.

How high should the permanent mirror be placed in the 3 D challenge (PART 1)?

The permanent mirror can be up to 6 inches higher, or 6 inches lower than the light source.  The height of the light source may vary depending on the tables available in the room.  Students should practice with the light source at varying table heights.

How big is the Maglite flashlight used in the 3 D challenge (PART 1)?

It is approximately 12 inches long with a diameter of approximately 1.75 inches.


Where can we get a large floor protractor to practice the 3 D challenge (PART 1)?

You can download a file from the Reflection Relay page on the Science Olympiad website (Click here). 
Take it to any office supply store or Macomb Intermediate School District – teacher’s workroom to print it. 
You also can put a normal sized protractor under a document camera and project it onto a piece of roll paper. 
You’ll want it to be an 80 centimeter radius.  It is a good idea to laminate it so it will last. 

What equipment will the students be able to move in the 3 D challenge (PART 1)?

The only things they can move are the 3 mirrors (that are provided by the Supervisor).  They may not move the flashlight, protractor, permanent mirror, target or furniture in the room.

Is the permanent mirror always the 2nd mirror in the 3 D challenge (PART 1)?

No, the permanent mirror can come anywhere in the series of mirrors reflecting the light.  It will probably be the 2nd or 3rd mirror since it would be extremely difficult (or impossible) to make it the 1st or 4th mirror.

What is a good score in the 3 D challenge (PART 1)?

The most successful teams consistently get scores of 10 seconds or less for each of the 3D challenges.

If they accidentally break a mirror, can they get another one in the 3 D challenge (PART 1)?

Yes, I’ll have extra mirrors available.  (Don’t worry, I’ve removed the 7 years bad luck hex on all Reflection Relay mirrors)

Does it do the team any good to be done before the 5 minute work time is up for the 2D challenge (PART 2)?

In the 3D challenge preparation time is a tie breaker, however in the 2 D challenge there is no advantage to being done early.   

What happens if students bump the laser or target out of place for the 2D challenge (PART 2)?

We will work hard to make sure the laser, target, and any barriers are solidly attached to playing field.  However if they are bumped hard enough, they might be pushed out of place.  Neither the event supervisor nor the students will be able to touch these pieces of equipment to try to put them back in their original position.  At the end of the 5 minute work period, the laser will be turned on and the team’s score will be based on which mirrors and target areas the laser light reaches.   Students should practice extreme care not to move the laser, target, or barriers.

In regards to the "light source" should students practice with an LED or Incandescent light source.

As long as you can focus the light into a small bright beam, it doesn't matter.

Rock Hound FAQs

Should we study anthracite coal as sedimentary or metamorphic?

Anthracite coal should be classified as metamorphic.  It was previously classified by petrologists as sedimentary rock, but a few years back scientific community decided that it has undergone enough pressure to be considered metamorphic - albeit very low grade metamorphic.

In the rules, under the list of rocks in the Metamorphic category, it says "hyllite". Is that correct?

There is a typo in the rules.  The correct listing should say "Phyllite".

May students put the letter/numbers on the chart that corresponds with the rocks in their box?

Students may put any information on the 8 1/2" x 14" chart that they may bring into the event, including the index letter or number that is on a rock specimen.


However, because they will not be allowed to bring their own rock specimens into the competition, it is unclear what value that information might have.

Where can I find example questions for this test?

For some events (including Rock Hound), we have posted copies of old practice tests on this website.  



You should be careful when using these resources, because some questions may no longer match the rules.



Simple Machines FAQs

How are you going to treat pi since the kids will not be able to bring in calculators?


No.  Only simple calculations are necessary and do not require the use of a calculator.  Scratch paper is provided for this purpose.


In the case of screws, will you be giving them the pitch?

 In the case of screws, students may be asked to evaluate how a change in diameter, or pitch will change the mechanical advantage.

How will you be handling pi in those instances where it needs to be used?


Students will not use Pi in calculations.  They only need to know when a formula for determining mechanical advantage includes Pi.  Students will only be asked to estimate or approximate mechanical advantage.

Starry, Starry Night FAQs

When identifying a feature during the Images section, do students need to identify the feature and the planet or moon on which it is found?

Students are not required to identify what planet or moon the feature is on to receive full credit. However, if they can't remember the name of the feature, they may receive partial credit for telling where it is found.

Will "1/2 moon" be an acceptable answer for 1st quarter and 3rd quarter in the moon phases?

The students will need to be more specific. The 1st quarter can be called "waxing half" and the 3rd quar-ter can be called "waning half".

What is included in "mechanics"? Does it include eclipses?

"Mechanics" refers to the way the bodies move in relation to each other, including rotation and revolution. The geometry of eclipses could theoretically fall under this topic; however eclipses questions have their own category in our classification.

Will coaches be allowed to see what the students were tested on during the practice tournaments to help prepare for the regional tournament?

Coaches will receive a score breakdown that lists the general topics and the number of points your team scored for each. For example, Eclipses: 5 out of 18 possible points; or Constellations: 14 out of 23 possible. Information or performance on specific questions will not be reported.

Will the kids be presented with a constellation to trace? How in-depth do they have to go?

As stated in the rules: "be able to identify these constellations and specific stars or star cluster [as listed], on a star chart of any month with no constellation lines visible."


Said another way, if we point to a specific star, or circle a group of stars that comprise a constellation, they should be able to name it with reasonable spelling.  Only the ones listed in the rules.


We won’t draw the constellation lines to assist them, and don't require the students to connect stars in a constellation pattern.  The students may draw constellation lines on the test if they wish.


Are the only images that students need know listed in the posted resources on the MSO website?

For galaxies and nebulae, and for planetary features, the posted materials list every image that the students should know.  

For planets, the students should recognize the primary image from each planet's invididual page of the the Nine Planets website.  

For the images section of the test, the students will be asked for the name.  For images of planetary features, if the student can't remember the name, they will receive partial credit for listing the planet on which it is found.

What is the difference between "The Big Dipper" vs. "Ursa Major", and how does it relate to what the students should know?

Ursa Major is one of the constellations which the students should know.  The Big Dipper is an asterism, which is a collection of stars that has been given another name, and in this specific case happens to be a subset of the stars included in Ursa Major.  Some asterims include stars from multiple constellations.

Students will not be given credit if they substitute the name of an asterism for the name of a constellation.

The glossary says that Copernicus formulated a heliocentric model of the Universe in the 16th century. Didn't Aristarcus propose that idea long before in the 3rd century BC?

Yes, there is evidence that Copernicus' theories built on the prior work of Aristarcus.  Copernicus is included as a notable person in the glossary because he was the first to combine physics, astronomy and mathematics to build a fact-based model of the universe, and changed what people had believed for over 1000 years.


Water Bottle Rockets FAQs

Are students allowed to use glue to attach fins to the rocket?

We no longer prohibit the use of any specific glue.  Care should be taken to not compromise the integrity of the of pressure vessel when attaching parts to it.

Will rockets be launched at the tournaments rain or shine?

Rocket launches may be called of due to weather.

See the Launch Criteria on our web stie.

Are students allowed to bring a step-stool so that they can reach their nose cone once the rocket is on the launcher?

We will provide a step-stool so that students can reach the rocket to make necessary adjustment.  WBR station supervisor will also be available to adjust part of the rocket as needed.  Once the rocket has been pressurized, students are not allowed to touch the rocket for safety reason, again the station supervisor will help.

If the Rockets launch is cancelled the night before, is there a chance they'll change their minds on tournament day?

The cancellation of the Water Rocket event on the night before a tournament will stand regardless of how the weather turns out on tournament day.


It is still possible that if the launch is not cancelled the night before, it could still be cancelled if tournament day conditions become unfavorable, as described in our launch policy.


Teams will not be expected to bring their rocket if the launch is cancelled the night before.

Will parents or coaches be allowed to accompany students to the check-in table, or close to the launcher to take pictures?

No.  Parents and coaches will be expected to stay back in the designated area.  They will also be expected to respect the policy of not coaching from the sidelines.

If my school has more than one team participating, may they use the same device?

In general, no.  Each team that has a separate team number must have their own device(s).



For the regional tournament (May 20), every registered team of up to 16 students must have its own device(s).  A few of those registered teams are the 2nd team for a school, and are classified as an “Alternate Team”.  Two devices from the same school may be very similar in design, but the students who compete are still expected to make their own device.  Every device must be marked with the Team number.  Accordingly, only one Event Team will be allowed to compete with a given device at that tournament.



At practice tournaments, teams are generally allowed to register more than 16 students, and have “Alternate Team Members” compete.  In these situations, there may be more than one Event Team registered for a given event and team number.  Those multiple event teams may use the device that has their team number.  For more information on participation rules at practice tournaments, see the information published on the Macomb Science Olympiad website, or contact the practice tournament director.

What are the height specifications of the Rockets this year?

There are no height restrictions this year. 


Weather or Not FAQs

I know there is less that on minute in each station and 3-4 questions in each station. How many questions in total for the weather or not event? Also how many stations?

16 stations of 4 questions each plus 2 stations with tie breaker questions.  There will be 3 projected media items with 4 questions each.  Total questions: 76.

The rules say that historical figures in Meteorology are in scope, but the Supervisor said it would not be in scope at the training event. Which is accurate?

The scope of the rules has been changed.  No questions about historical figures in Meteorology will be asked.

Will there be questions on Isobars?

The kids need to know what isobars are and what they represent.  They should potentially be able to pick them out on a weather map.

Wildlife Safari FAQs

May students write on the test they are given? For example, if they wanted to circle their answer on the test to avoid confusion when filling out the ZipGrade answer form?

Yes, they may mark on the test materials.  


However, it may be faster to mark their answer directly on the ZipGrade form.

Also, we are planning to reuse at least some of the test materials to save printing costs.  We will appreciate it if some of the teams don't mark on their test materials.

May students create their own index to be used along with the Stan Tekiela Field Guide?

A team of two students is allowed to bring one field guide per student.  Accordingly, a team of two students could bring the Stan Tekiela field guide as one of them, and create their own field guide with a different indexing system as the 2nd field guide.  Or they could create an alternate index, and make certain that it is securely fastened to the purchased field guide.

Will questions be asked about all of the birds in the field guide or just from the 40 birds for which they need to know the birdcall?

Questions may be asked about any of the birds in the book and also from information from the introduction sections.

Is there a size limit on the student-created field guide?

The rules do not specify a size limit.  Remember that it cannot have loose pages.  There is probably a practical limit on how big it can be or should be.

Zowie Estimation FAQs

Will the weight of the cup be a consideration in the total weight?

The amount in the cup should be 100 grams NOT including the weight of the cup

What is the shape of the containers? will they all be rectangular or will there be circular containers also?


Any container is possible. Remember that students should count one layer on the surface, how many layers, and then multiply (No matter what is the shape of container).