Don't Bug Me A

Q: Will students be able to bring in notes or a key to help them with classifications? The manual states that it is permitted, but I know that some events in the past have denied notes. (section: Notes/Key / paragraph:  / sub-paragraph:  / line: ?)

A: Yes. Notes are permitted unless they are specifically prohibited in the event description. Remember that there is a very short time at each station, perhaps just a minute or two in some events. Use care when planning on looking things up in notes when time is limited.

Tennis Ball Catapult A

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Q: It states in the event description, "Students may place their catapult at any point behind the foul line up to 2 meters..." Does the entire catapult need to be behind the foul line, or does the tennis ball's launching point just have to be behind the foul line?  Also, the diagram has 2-4 meters from Foul Line to Target, but the "Description" says, "target placed between 2 and 5 meters." Which one is correct? (section: 6 / paragraph:  / sub-paragraph:  / line: 2)

A: The entire catapult needs to be within the designated launch area.
Students should be prepared for a target distance of up to 5 meters.

Q: Will the team be able to use their chart to make adjustments during the competition (section: 1 / paragraph:  / sub-paragraph:  / line: 1)

A: Yes. Students may refer to data charts during the operation of the catapult.

Tennis Ball Catapult A

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Q: Where is the target distance measured from? Is the 2-4 or 2-5 meters measured from the foul line, or from the back of the Catapult Launching area? (section: . Description says the target will be “placed between 2 and 5 meters.”  / paragraph:  / sub-paragraph:  / line: . Description says the target will be “placed between 2 and 5 meters.” )

A: Students should be prepared to hit a target placed 2-5 meters from a designated foul line. They may move the catapult within a 2 meter area behind the foul line, but may not cross the foul line. The distance to the center of the target is measured from the front foul line and will be announced after the catapults are impounded.

Can Race A

Event Update: Can Race Venue

Engineering design events generally emphasize a design challenge with a range of variables and restrictions. The intent is for students to design, test, revise, and improve their device. The best preparation allows for students to accommodate a variety of conditions that they may encounter at the competition. A common variable is the surface on which a device operates.

This is certainly the case with the Can Race event. 

The best racers will operate effectively on a variety of surfaces. Because the students may not add any material to the surfaces of the racer, they may want to consider their design and operation variables. Over the years, we have run this event on close nap carpet, concrete sidewalk, linoleum floors, gymnasium floors, etc. We would like to advise teams that the floor surface for the 2018 Can Race at Occidental College may be very smooth.

Mystery Boxes A

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Q: Will students need to record measurements using the metric system or will they be allowed to use the English system?  The manual uses an example using the metric system. (section: Mystery Boxes / paragraph: 1 under scoring / sub-paragraph:  / line: 3-4)

A: The specific details that students are asked to record may vary from the example chart in the event description. If the event includes recording measurements of size or weight, students should be prepared to record measurements in metric units.

Making & Using a Key A

Q: The approximate time says 60 min. on the event description; According to the schedule the event lasts for 30 min. please clarify if the event will exceed the 30 min. on the schedule.  If students have back to back events, we want to be sure they will make it to the next event (section: Approximate Time / paragraph:  / sub-paragraph:  / line: 1)

A: All of the elementary events will be 30 minutes in duration. Some events will vary from the description in the rules manual in order to accommodate this uniform scheduling.

Earth Processes A

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Q: What are the kids allowed to bring in with them to the event? Are they allowed to bring in notes? Can they bring a magnifying glass to help read the maps? (section: 1 / paragraph:  / sub-paragraph:  / line: 1)

A: Notes and reference materials are permitted unless prohibited in the rules of the event. Students may bring a magnifying glass if they prefer.

Tennis Ball Catapult

Q: How big can the device be? What is the limit on its dimensions?(section: The Competion explanation / paragraph: Number #4 / sub-paragraph:  / line: Line #1)

A: The size limits on the Tennis Ball Catapult are the maximum height described in #3, and reasonability.

3.  "... The last point on the device touched by the tennis ball may not be more than 50 cm above the ground before, during, or after starting."

The catapult must be of a reasonable size. Remember that 2 students must be able to carry the catapult and set it up.

Rubber Band Catapult

Q: Clarify what base position means. What information are you asking for? Is it where we position the base? Example: Centered? Right or left? Angeled right or left? Degrees to the right or left? Same for the arm position? (section: Section 3 Data chart / paragraph: # 3 / sub-paragraph:  / line: 2)

A: Students should supply any pertinent information that shows they have tested the catapult and collected data to calibrate the device so that they are ready for range of target locations. Catapult designs may vary. Students should use terms that communicate the operational variables included in their design.

Pasta (& Meatball) Mobile

Q: The number of students is listed in the official description as 3. However, the previous rules for Pastamobile list 4 and the Preliminary Schedule of Events lists 4 students. Please confirm number of students allowed. (section: Number of Students / paragraph: 1 / sub-paragraph:  / line: 1)


A: The corrected version of the Pasta (& Meatball) Mobile states the Number of Students is "Up to 4". Four (4) students will be allowed in the competition area for this event.

Tennis Ball Catapult

Q: Can you clarify what the following mean “The last point on the device touched by the tennis ball may not be more than 50cm above the ground....”? (section: The Competion explanation / paragraph: #3 / sub-paragraph:  / line: Line #2 )

A: What ever part of the catapult that last touches the tennis ball cannot be more than 50cm above the ground. For example, if a swinging arm is used the part that touches the tennis ball cannot be more than 50cm above the ground at any point as it swings. If some other design is used, the same rule applies and the part where the tennis ball last touches the device must be no more than 50 cm above the ground.

Pasta (& Meatball) Mobile


Q: What do you mean by Meatball Mobile?  We are familiar with the pastamobile, but what is the meatball component?  Or it just a play on words? (section: ALL / paragraph: ALL / sub-paragraph: ALL / line: ALL)

A: Pasta & Meatball Mobile refers to a variation on the rules listed in the Elementary Science Olympiad manual. The device will be designed to carry a ping pong ball, as described in the event description online.

Rubber Band Catapult


Q: Are the rubber [bands] being provided by us. Do they have to be 3 different sizes or can they be the same size? (section: The Competition: / paragraph: #6 / sub-paragraph:  / line: Contestants will shoot three(3) different rubber bands.)

A: The rubber bands are provided by the team. The three (3) different rubber bands do not need to be different sizes, but must meet the size and arrangement requirements listed. For example, the students get three shots at the target. Each shot must be with a different rubber band.

Food Webs … Owl Pellets

Q: For our first submission we included only one pellet because students were not finished with the other four dissections, due to school cancellation from the fires.  We were not able to submit any photos of the four remaining pellets on the second submission, January 19.  Will there be an opportunity to make the final photo submission? (section: Teams are expcted to obtain at least 5 owl pellets from a commercial source. . . Submission of photos of bones / paragraph: "event details" / sub-paragraph:  / line: Observations and conclusions reported online may include:)

A: The email address for submitting photos as part of the first data submission was:

Paddle Boats

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Q: #64 rubber bands come in different thicknesses (1/32, 1/64 inch, etc.) Can you tell us the thickness of the rubber bands that will be provided by the event supervisor, or the brand name of the bands, so that we could practice with the same type? (section: Description / paragraph:  / sub-paragraph:  / line: Construction: 4.d.)

A: The rubber bands for Paddle Boats will be purchased from Staples.

Q: Are we allowed to use screws instead of nails for the paddle boats? (section: Competition / paragraph:  / sub-paragraph:  / line: 2)

A: Screws are not listed as one of the possible materials and are therefore prohibited. Part of the challenge of the event is to design the boat within the parameters of the rules.

UPDATE: Food Webs … Owl Pellets


The Food Webs…Owl Pellets event includes online submission of observations, explanations, and conclusions. We have received data describing more than 350 owl pellet observations!

Students will be asked to respond to three follow-up questions about owl pellets and food webs. The responses do not need to be lengthy, but should show reasonable understanding of the concepts. Please be sure the work submitted is student work.

The followup questions below are provided so that you can prepare for the online submission when it opens. Do not respond until the link is live on the website. Only online submissions will be accepted. Each team (school) may submit only one response to the questions. The first submission received will count as the submission for your team.

Part 2 – Follow-up Questions

Question #1
Science Olympiad students examined more than 350 owl pellets for this activity. The most common prey species found in the pellets were voles. Many of the prey species found in the owl pellets you examined are most active at night. Describe two important adaptations that make owls effective predators at night.

Question #2
Many of the prey species found in the owl pellets are commonly found in fields and agricultural land. How would the conversion of natural fields or agricultural land to urban and suburban land use affect an owl population?

Question #3
After examining more than 350 owl pellets, we have learned that the most common number of prey found in pellets is two. The data submitted by the Science Olympiad students indicate that more than half the pellets had either two or three prey in each pellet. Find out how many pellets a barn owl usually produces each day. About how many prey does a barn owl eat in a year? What impact does this have in the ecosystem where the owl lives? 

Lastly, the second submission deadline has been extended to Friday, January 19, 2018.

Click to download a copy of the description of Food Webs ... Owl Pellets: Part 2.