Caltech: Caltech Is Virtual Host to National Science Olympiad Tournament

More than 5,000 middle school and high school students representing 120 student teams will compete this weekend in the 38th Annual National Science Olympiad Tournament hosted virtually by Caltech.

To arrive at the national competition, the student teams had to outcompete thousands of others, advancing from regional and state competitions to the national level. Teams from every state are joined by a global ambassador team from Japan, the result of a 10-year educational partnership between Science Olympiad and the Japan Science and Technology Agency.

On tournament day, competitors will test their knowledge, skills, and ingenuity in 23 events focused on topics within physics, biology, Earth science, engineering, and chemistry. Pairs and trios of students from each team of 15 students will compete in six hour-long blocks of parallel events, from decoding encrypted messages to analyzing chemistry lab scenarios. Volunteer event supervisors, often scientists with Caltech affiliations, will resolve any technical issues and answer questions.

In the week leading up to the competition, the competitors have had a chance to virtually explore Caltech and to hear from several Caltech faculty and researchers, including Nobel Laureate Frances Arnold, the Linus Pauling Professor of Chemical Engineering, Bioengineering and Biochemistry; and Professor of Chemistry and Chemical Engineering Karthish Manthiram, who was once a Science Olympiad participant.

Beyond the tournament, Caltech and Science Olympiad have also partnered to support STEAM:CODERS, a local nonprofit that teaches logic, critical thinking, and problem-solving with the support of coding volunteers, many of whom come from Caltech. The goal of the partnership is to address STEM opportunity gaps in the region.

“One really cool thing about Science Olympiad is that it’s not like your usual class, where you learn something in class and then you just have to replicate the same thing on a test,” says Caltech junior Jolly Patro, a Science Olympiad alumna and a student organizer of this event. “In Science Olympiad, you have to figure out what to learn or how to learn it, which is a useful skill to have at Caltech, where research is such a big thing and sometimes you must take the initiative to learn on your own. That’s a skill that I only learned through Science Olympiad.”

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