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Overview

At a Science Olympiad Tournament, students work together in teams of up to 15 to compete in 23 events. The events change from year to year, covering fields and topics including: anatomy and biology, earth science, chemistry, physics, geology, mechanical and structural engineering, and technology. Some events entail taking a test, while others involve doing hands-on labs, or even building and bringing a device to the tournament.

Teams participate in a single division. Division A is 3rd - 5th grade and is VASO's introduction to its larger, more competitive program for older students. Division A has two stand-alone tournaments in northern VA in the fall. Division B is middle school (5th - 8th) and Division C is high school (9th - 12th). Division B and Division C have multiple levels of tournaments, as well as opportunities for Invitational practice tournaments.

Each Science Olympiad season begins in September, when the Event Rules are released and Registration opens. In Divisions B and C, teams then spend several months preparing for their Regional Tournament held in the winter or spring of the next year (dates vary depending on the exact Regional). The top teams from each Regional go on to compete at the Virginia State Tournament in March, vying for the title of State Champion and the opportunity to represent Virginia at the National Tournament in May.

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  • What is a Science Olympiad team?
    A Science Olympiad team is a team of up to 15 students from a single school. Each school/team is led by a Head Coach. The Head Coach is an official representative of the school and must be authorized by the school's principal to represent the school .
  • Can an individual participate in Science Olympiad?
    Science Olympiad is a team endeavor – students do not participate individually in Science Olympiad tournaments. A student may only join a team sponsored by the school they attend. Interested students should contact their school Science Olympiad representatives. The National Science Olympiad does run a program called MY SO. It is intended to complement the traditional tournaments, but designed for individual students (grades 6 - 12) to participate.
  • What do I do if my school doesn't have an SO program?
    If your school does not participate in Science Olympiad, we encourage you to explore starting a team at your school. Talk to your classmates who love science to see if they may be interested. Ask a teacher to serve as your coach. New teams join us each year, and we have resources to help. Your coach is free to contact us for further information about getting a team going.
  • What does it take to make a team?
    Each school/team is led by a Head Coach. The Head Coach is an official representative of the school and must be authorized by the school's principal to represent the school . In order to attend a Science Olympiad tournament, teams must have a head coach approved by the school, submit the online registration form, pay any membership dues, and, depending on the tournament site, provide some tournament-day volunteers. More information can be found on the registration page, and any additional requirements will be sent to the head coach.
  • How much are fees and what do they cover?
    Registered teams are entitled to compete at one VASO Regional Tournament, as well as the State and the National Tournament, if they qualify. Registered teams may also participate at optional Invitationals, but the membership fees do not cover admission to any Invitationals. Teams participating at Invitational Tournaments should check with the Invitational Tournament Director for any additional fees that may be required. Fees do not cover any supplies, travel, or other costs incurred by teams. Fees for the 2023-2024 season are: Division A fees Division BC fees
  • What division are we in?
    VASO organizes three Science Olympiad divisions: Division A (grades 3-5) - an introduction to the older divisions 5th graders may participate in either Division A or B, but not both in a single school year. Division B (grades 5-9) VASO allows 5th graders to compete on Division B teams, but advises coaches to consider their inclusion carefully in light of the Parent Participation policy prohibiting anyone other than team members from doing ANY construction on competition devices. No provision will be made for the younger age of 5th grade participants. 9th graders may compete on a middle school team only if their school includes and terminates in 9th grade. If so, no more than five 9th graders are allowed on a Division B team. If the school contains grades higher than 9th, then 9th graders are expected to compete on the school's Division C team. Division C (grades 9-12) No more than seven 12th grade students are allowed on a Division C team.
  • Who leads/organizes a team?
    Each school/team is led by a Head Coach. The Head Coach is an official representative of the school and must be authorized by the school's principal to represent the school. Teams cannot register without a head coach and the principal's authorization. In addition to a head coach, many high school teams have a student leadership that organizes much of the team - particularly the events, team assignments, and study materials. Please read our Student Leadership guidelines if you choose to do this.
  • Why do I need to register my team?
    All teams located in Virginia must be registered with Virginia Science Olympiad in order to participate in any Science Olympiad Tournament (Invitational, Regional, State, or National). This is a National requirement and registration your home state is required even if the tournament is held out of state.
  • How many teams can a school field?
    VASO allows schools to send up to 3 teams to a regional tournament. If a school would like to field a bigger program in order to send more teams to Invitational tournaments, VASO allows that. Those teams must be registered with VASO as well, but VASO has reduced "Invitational-only" pricing for those teams.
  • How much are fees and what do they cover?
    Registered teams are entitled to compete at one VASO Regional Tournament, as well as the State and the National Tournament, if they qualify. Registered teams may also participate at optional Invitationals, but the membership fees do not cover admission to any Invitationals. Teams participating at Invitational Tournaments should check with the Invitational Tournament Director for any additional fees that may be required. Fees do not cover any supplies, travel, or other costs incurred by teams. Fees for the 2023-2024 season are: Division A fees Division BC fees
  • How are the events selected?
    A Science Olympiad tournament usually consists of 23 events in both Division B (Grades 6 – 8) and Division C (Grades 9 – 12). Science Olympiad events are carefully chosen by the National Science Olympiad organization to reflect national educational standards and are a rigorous, challenging way to enhance STEM education in our schools. Each year the events are changed or revised to allow students to learn new things. VASO uses the National event list as the basis of its tournament event list each year. However, VASO may make adjustments to the slate based on the tournament locations, facilities, equipment, and volunteer availability. See the "Events" page to see the adjustments and clarifications for individual events.
  • When and where do we get the events?
    In Division A, the rules are posted in early August on the Div A event pages. In Division B and C, the rules are released the Tuesday after Labor Day. They can be downloaded for free online from the national website (see link on the Events page). In both divisions, the rules manuals, along with any posted Rules Clarifications, lay out the requirements and parameters of the events.
  • What is the event schedule I keep hearing so much about?
    Events at a tournament can be scheduled at the same time. Team members may not compete in events that are held at the same time. That creates what we can an "event conflict". Thus it is *critical* for coaches to view the event schedule to make sure that students aren't double-booked. It is devastating to have students spend all season preparing for two events only to find that they are scheduled at the same time and they have to select only one of them. Nationals releases an event schedule in the rulebook. VASO, and all other tournaments, base their event schedules on the National one so that there is as much consistency across tournaments as possible. However, VASO, and all other state organizations, reserves the right to adjust the schedule to meets its needs. The VASO schedule (which is good for regionals and states) can be found on our Events page.
  • Do we have to do all the events?
    No - An SO team does not have to compete in all of the events. Thus a small or new team can choose in which events to compete to get a feel for it for future years. Medals are given in individual events so students on small teams can earn prizes for their efforts. However, team trophies and the ability to move onto the next level of competition depend on the entire team's performance, which will be negatively impacted if a team chooses not to compete in all the events.
  • What are rule clarifications?
    Rule clarifications are used to fix any errors in the rules, explain logistics changes due tournament location, and answer any commonly-asked questions teams may have regarding the rules. VASO clarifications are posted on this website and apply to all Regional and State Tournaments in Virginia. These clarifications must be treated as part of the rules. National clarifications and FAQs are not valid in Virginia unless posted on this website. Clarifications for a tournament usually close 1-2 weeks before the tournament so teams are not affected by any last-minute changes.
  • What does "States Only" mean?
    The first VASO tournament that your team will attend is a regional tournament. If an event is marked "States only", it will not be held at the VASO regional tournament. There are some events in each division which VASO has designated as "States only". If your team does well enough at the regional tournament to move on to the state tournament, then your team may take on the "States only" events as well.
  • What is a tournament like?
    In general, an SO tournament is like an academic track meet. A team of up to 15 students competes in a wide variety of science and technology events. With a track team, you would have your sprinters and your distance runners and your javelin throwers competing in events throughout the day. In a track meet, the events would be things like 100m dash, 200m hurdles, shot put, etc. In SO, you will have a team of students interested in chemistry, biology, engineering, physics, earth science, and the nature of science. Their events will be things like chemistry lab, anatomy, bridge building, etc. A typical tournament has up to 23 events for the team that happen throughout the day. Note that tournaments each have their own schedule so it is important to check the event schedule to make sure that students aren't booked for two events that happen at the same time.
  • What are the levels of tournaments?
    The "Regional" is the core tournament of SO. Every team that registers with their state organization will attend one regional tournament within the state. The highest scoring teams at regional tournaments will be invited to their State Tournament in late March. (See our FAQ on how teams are selected for States.) The winning team in each division at the State Tournament will be invited to the National Tournament in May. VASO is one of the larger programs in the United States, so it is often invited to send the two-highest teams from States to the National Tournament. Schools sometimes run practice tournaments, independent from VASO, called "Invitationals". These are optional tournaments, offering teams full-scale practice under competitive, tournament conditions. Don't be fooled by the name "Invitationals"; anyone is welcome to attend. To participate in these, schools must have completed their VASO registration. These tournaments also will have their own registration fees. See our "Invitationals" page for opportunities. Since Division A is intended to be a fun introduction to science and the program, their tournaments are "one-and-done". Thus there are no State, National or Invitational tournaments.
  • What is a satellite-model tournament?
    In a satellite tournament, the team participates during the tournament time at its own school, rather than a separate official tournament location. Written tests are typically taken online and builds can be judged via presubmitted videos or live video judging. There can be some variations in this model so it is important to read the tournament materials to understand expectations for participation.
  • What is a hybrid-model tournament?
    A hybrid tournament is a tournament model in which the written tests are given on a virtual testing program and the hands-on and build events are run in-person on a different day at a specific venue.
  • What model of tournaments does VASO use?
    In 2023-24, VASO will have fully in-person tournaments, where all tournament activities happen at a specific tournament site (such as a high school or college campus) on a specific day.
  • What is "Scilympiad"?
    Scilympiad is a virtual testing platform written specifically for Science Olympiad. Most tournaments that have an online testing component utilize Scilympiad. Scilympiad is primarily used in online Invitational tournaments. The head coach creates an account for the school. In it, the coach will upload a roster of students, create teams, and assign students to teams and events. On tournament day, students will log into Scilympiad and take their tests at the assigned time. Help videos on the use of Scilympiad are available on the VASO YouTube channel.
  • What awards can we win at tournaments?
    Science Olympiad gives medals for the individual events, as well as recognizing overall team ranking. In Division B and C tournaments, VASO typically gives medals in the individuals events down to sixth place. Overall team trophies are usually given down to fifth place. If a school is fielding more than one team, the entire school will be awarded the trophy based on the rank of its best-scoring team. In Division A tournaments, VASO does not award team trophies, only awarding ribbons in the individual events. VASO may choose to alter how many medals, ribbons, and trophies it awards if participation in a tournament is much smaller or larger than anticipated. Note that Invitationals (including Invitationals held in Virginia) will make their own decisions about how many medals and trophies to give.
  • How is it decided who gets to go to the State Tournament?
    VASO uses Division B and C regional tournaments as qualifier (elimination) tournaments to determine which schools proceed to States. Division A does not have a State Tournament. Schools qualify as a whole for an invitation to States; students do not qualify individually by event. Also, the two divisions (B&C) do not compete against one another. Finally, schools can only earn one spot at the State tournament. A school will qualify for the State Tournament based on the overall tournament place of its highest-placing team at its own regional. For more information and a detailed example, check out our Guideline for Qualifying for States. Division A does not offer a State tournament.

Resources

Assigning Students to Events:

  • Sample Commitment Form (.docx or .pdf)

  • Sample Event Choice Spreadsheet (.xlsx or .pdf)

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