Codebusters C

Question: National FAQ: If students make errors while decoding the first question, but still receive full or partial credit per 4.b.ii., will this be counted as answering "correctly" for purposes of earning the timing bonus? (section: 4 / part:  / paragraph: c / sub-paragraph:  / line: 1)

Response: There is no partial credit for the bonus. In order to be considered solved for rule 3.i.v. the team must solve the timed question with 2 or fewer errors within the 10 minute timer. After the 10 minute time has passed, the timed question is scored like any other question under rule 4.b.ii. such that a team may still receive points for solving it with 3 mistakes, but no bonus is awarded.

Mission Possible C

Question: National Rules Clarification (section: 4 / part:  / paragraph: b / sub-paragraph: iv / line: )

Response: 4.b.iv. should read "Add water to a container to raise a standard, unmodified golf ball located in the same container at least 5 cm so that the golf ball rolls out of the top of the container and initiates the next action." (Added "standard, unmodified".)

Question: National FAQ: Do the heartburn tablets have to be whole or can they be crushed/broken into pieces? (section: 4 / part:  / paragraph: b / sub-paragraph: iii / line: 1)

Response: They must be in tablet form per the rules, not be broken or crushed.

Question: National FAQ: For scorable electric actions, is a secondary action for the sole purpose of turning off a running motor considered an illegal parallel task under 3.c.? (section: 3 / part:  / paragraph: c / sub-paragraph:  / line: 1)

Response: No. A secondary "action" for the sole purpose of turning off the electrical circuit in a previous scorable action is allowed. It cannot be connected in any way to any other actions.

Question: National FAQ: Is an unmodified golf ball which is designed to float in water allowed? (section: 4 / part:  / paragraph: b / sub-paragraph: iv / line: 1)

Response: No. The golf ball must be a standard, unmodified golf ball. Floater golf balls are not considered standard. Please see the posted Clarification regarding 4.b.iv.

Question: National FAQ: What constitutes a golf ball for scorable action 4.b.iv.? (section: 4 / part:  / paragraph: b / sub-paragraph: iv / line: 1)

Response: Please see the posted Clarification for Scorable Action 4.b.iv. The golf ball must be a standard, unmodified golf ball.

Question: National FAQ: Would placing weights into a balloon count as gravitational guidance? (section: 4 / part:  / paragraph: b / sub-paragraph: i / line: 1)

Response: Yes, placing weights in a balloon would count as gravitational guidance and would not be allowed.

Question: National FAQ: What defines water? Can the water that is being added to the container have
any additives in it such as salt? (section: 4 / part:  / paragraph: b / sub-paragraph: iv / line: 1)

Response: Water must be without additives.

Disease Detectives C

Question: National FAQ: What is the focus of Disease Detectives this year? (section: 1 / part:  / paragraph:  / sub-paragraph:  / line: 1)

Response: Disease Detectives has been reorganized for 2019 and the topic rotation has been dropped. See the 2019 rules for the emphasis in each area. For an outbreak investigation, needed background will be provided.

Mission Possible C

Question: In rule 3b for Mission Possible it states that two vertical walls and the top must be open for viewing. Can we use supports on the edges/corners of these open areas to make our device sturdier? The two sides and top would remain open, there would just be extra support on the corners/edges. (Section: 3 / Paragraph: b / Line: 1)

Response: Yes, there may be supports on the edges/vertices. There may even be supports in the middle of the "wall", so long as they do not significantly hinder observing the device's internals.

Question: Is it allowed to launch multiple quarters, and if so, will points be awarded if all quarters  trigger the next reaction and not all end tails-up? (section: 4 / part:  / paragraph: b / sub-paragraph: x / line: 1)

Response: No. Only a single quarter may be used for 4.b.x..

Question: National FAQ: Is the use of electricity allowed in non-scorable actions? (section: 3 / part:  / paragraph: g / sub-paragraph:  / line: 1)

Response: No, electricity is not allowed in non-scorable actions.

Question: National FAQ: What defines "programmable component"? Would a thermostat temperature controller be considered "programmable"? (section: 3 / part:  / paragraph: i / sub-paragraph:  / line: 1)

Response: There may be some thermostats that are non-programmable, but many are. The team could be at risk using a digital one. One that moves physically to complete the next action could be allowed if the judges see that it is not programmable.

Boomilever C

Question: Is the loading block considered one piece, or are you allowed to remove the threaded eye bolt and wing nut from the loading block to mount it on the boomilever, and re-connect the threaded eye bolt and wing nut after mounting? (Section: 5 / Part: ll / Paragraph: b / Line: 3)

Response: The "Loading Block" is only the square block with the hole (5.b.i.); it is separate from the threaded eye bolt and wing nut (5.b.ii.). Both are components of the Loading Assembly (5.b.), which, per 4.Part II.c., is allowed to be disassembled.

Mission Possible

Question: Per National FAQ 10/17/2018, a team should use a balloon that is marketed as a balloon. When students use such marketed balloons, can they alter (for example: reduce in size) or cut off parts of the balloon? (Section: 4 / Part: b / Paragraph: i / Line: 1)

Response: This is up to the event supervisors on the day of the tournament. They must be able to verify that "part of such balloon" was indeed a marketable balloon, or at least, per the National FAQ, that the part would still "be considered a balloon to most people who see it".

Question: If a balloon is placed on the floor of the device, is it consider guided? (Section: 4 / Part: b / Paragraph: i / Line: 1)

Response: Yes, a balloon that inflates along the floor would be considered guided. Per the National FAQ definition of guidance, there would not be "enough room between the balloon and the other parts of the machine to allow the balloon to move randomly".

Mission Possible

Question: National FAQ: Can the ping pong ball indirectly cause the golf ball to move, or does it have to be moved with direct contact between the balls? (Section: 4 / Paragraph: a / Line: 2)

Response: Yes, the rules do not say the ping pong ball has to come in direct contact with the golf ball, just cause the golf ball to move and start the next action.

Question: National FAQ: Do the scorable actions in the device have to be in order as in the packet (b.i. , b.ii. , b.iii. , b.iv. , etc.) or can they be in any order as long as you list on the ASL what it is? (Section: 4 / Paragraph: j / Line: 1)

Response: No, the scorable actions may be in any order within the device and listed on the ASL in the order they are within the device.

Question: National FAQ: Would a lead object permanently encased in a safe material be considered hazardous? (Section: 3 / Paragraph: j / Line: 1)

Response: Yes, a lead object permanently encased would be considered hazardous and not be allowed.

Experimental Design

Question: National FAQ: Will participants be required to write a "Statement of problem" even though it is not included in the rubric? (Section: Rubric / Line: 1)

Response: No. Students may write a Statement of Problem but the Hypothesis will contain information necessary to determine what is happening in the experiment.

Fossils C

Q: National FAQ: Will binders be measured using the binding or the rings? (Section: 2 / Paragraph: a / Line: 2)

A: Binders will be measured by the size of the rings. A 3" binder has rings that have a 3" diameter on the inside of the rings. The binding of a 3" binder will be larger.

Question: National FAQ: Cannot find the Official S.O. Geologic Time Scale. Found a reference in old 2010-11 event that went to a dead GSA site link, so I assume you're using the latest GSA Time Scale (v. 5.0), but that is not the way it's described in the rules. (section: 3 / part:  / paragraph: d / sub-paragraph: viii / line: 1)

Response: The Official Science Olympiad Geologic Time Scale was modified from the Geological Society of America Time Scale and is available on the Science Olympiad website.. The Geologic Time Scale was updated in 2018, but the Science Olympiad Official Time Scale will have 2019 in the title, to reflect use for the 2018-19 season.

Mission Possible

Q: Is an object floating on top of the water considered an additive to the water? A National FAQ said that the water must be without additives. (Section: 4 / Part: b / Paragraph: iv / Line: 1)

A: Additives change chemical or physical properties of the water (e.g. adding salt to change its conductivity, or adding soap to change its surface tension). Water that enters the container must be without such additives. Once the water enters the container, it may mix with/come into contact with anything, including floating objects.

Q: If a balloon is inflated downwards, is it considered "guided" by gravity? (Section: 4 / Part: b / Paragraph: i / Line: 1)

A: No, it isn't. The natural weight of the balloon is not considered a guide.

Sounds of Music

National Clarification 
(Section: 3 / Part: II / Paragraph: f / Sub-Paragraph: ii)

A: 3.Part II.f.ii should read: "Participants will play one pitch at a time, holding it for a duration of 5 seconds as indicated by signals from the event supervisor. For devices with a quick decay time, multiple attacks on the pitch are allowed (for example, striking a bar multiple times with a mallet or plucking a string). The pitch measurement will be the average value during the 5 seconds. Participants will wait until the supervisor records the measured pitch frequency and indicates that they may proceed before playing the next note in the sequence."; ("average" replaced "best".)

Protein Modeling

Q: Will the Jmol reference sheet with amino acids be provided? (Section: 3 / Part: II / Paragraph: B / Line: 4)

A: Yes, a Jmol reference sheet will be available, either printed or on the computer.

Q: Will the On-Site Build and the On-Site Written Exam occur simultaneously during a session or will these be occurring at different distinct times during a session?

A: They will occur simultaneously.

Anatomy and Physiology

Q: In this section, I am told to interpret ECG readings on strips. However, there are many complicated heart conditions that can be read on ECG strips. I'm wondering whether we have to know about all of these heart conditions or just a few basic ones. (Section: 3 / Paragraph: a / Line: 2)

A: ECG interpretation will be simple and straight forward for B division. It is more about understanding how than diagnosis.

Protein Modeling

National Rules Clarification (Section: 2 / Part: I / Paragraph: a)

A: THE COMPETITION Part I: The Pre-Built Model, a. should read: "Participants will use the program Jmol/JSmol to visualize a model of residues 1-85 of the Anti-CRISPR protein, based on the coordinate data found in the 5vw1.pdb file. The 5vw1.pdb file can be accessed for free from the RCSB Protein Data Bank ( Jmol/JSmol can be accessed at for free.

Mousetrap Vehicle

Q: As "No part of the jaw/hammer may extend more than 1.0 cm beyond the base," does the jaw/hammer include an arm-extension from the original hammer of the mousetrap(s)? (Section: 3 / Paragraph: 1 / Line: 2)

A: No. Any added items are not considered part of the unmodified mousetrap, and therefore may extend more than 1.0 cm beyond the mousetrap's base. Per 3.a., however, added items may not increase the potential energy of the unmodified mousetrap.

Q: Does this mean when the wheels/treads are placed on the floor, the bottoms of the wheels must fit in a 40.0 x 40.0 cm space? Or is this measuring the vertical center of the wheels, outer edge to outer edge? (Section: 3 / Paragraph: f / Line: 1)

A: Paragraph 3.f. states that the 'wheels/treads in their entirety' must fit in the box. That means from the outermost portion of the rear wheel/tread to the foremost portion of the front wheel/tread must fit in the 40 cm x 40 cm box.

Q:  Is a team allowed to modify the paper cup during their 8-minutes? (Section: 7 / Paragraph: d / Line: 1)

A: No. A team is not allowed to modify the paper cup during their 8-minutes.

Mission Possible

Q:  In reference to unguided balloons, may a string be used to empty the contents of a balloon into a bottle so long as the string does not guide or pull the balloon towards a specific direction? (Section: 4 / Paragraph: b / Sub-Paragraph: i / Line: 1)

A: This may be possible. It depends upon the decision of the judges who see it operate. It must not be guided and no other rules may be broken. As an example, the string's movement must not directly cause the balloon to move towards the direction it needs to go to cause the next action.

Q: What do you mean by launch? Does it have to go airborne above the top boundary? (Section: 4 / Paragraph: b / Sub-Paragraph: x / Line: 1)

A: Yes, the quarter must be launched into the air so that it goes above the top boundary of the Device before it lands back into the Device.

Q: Do competitors need to ask permission before touching their device if they believe it has stopped, jammed, or failed? (Section: 4 / Paragraph: h / Line: 1)

A: No, they do not need to ask. However, if the team reaches into a device that is still running, the judges may penalize the team for taking advantage of time. If they are figuring the time and basing the touch on that, it could lead to a disqualification.

Q: Does the inclined plane have to be a flat surface or can it be a curved surface/half-pipe (such as a PVC tube) or a set of parallel rails? (Section: 4 / Paragraph: b / Sub-Paragraph: vi / Line: 1)

A: It should be a plane. The plane could be curved, however, it is up to the student to prove that the IMA >= 2. Rails do not make an inclined plane.

Q: If during operation, part of a device exceeds its initial dimensions, should the measured dimensions be expanded (and therefore subject to 6.b.i. if >60.0cm) to include this extension, or be penalized under 6.c. for exceeding its initial dimension? (Section: 6 / Paragraph: c / Line: 1)

A: If a part of the device moves out of the original dimensions, it should be included in the measurement of the device. If an object leaves the device or detaches from the device, the 50 point penalty will be assessed. It is suggested that the team notify the judges about this expansion before running the device so this can be measured.

Q: Is ice considered water? For example, could water be mixed with ice? (Section: 4 / Paragraph: b / Sub-Paragraph: iv / Line: 1)

A: Water in action 4.b.iv must be in the liquid phase. The container can initially contain ice, but only liquid water can be added to the container during device operation.


Q: For Herpetology are the species’ information based on North America only? For example, in population is it for North America or the whole world? (Section: 1 / Line: 1)

A: Questions relating to species' information will be limited to North American groups and organisms included in the official herpetology list. However there might be a one or two broad, generalized questions about major, exotic groups (populations, examples) elsewhere in the world.

Designer Genes

Q: What is the difference between the "molecular consequences of mutations" (Regional & State topic) and "mutations" (National topic)? (Section: 3 / Paragraph: b / Line: 15)

A: Categories of mutations (nonsense, missense, etc) are included in the "basic principles of genetics" in relation to their molecular consequences. More specific questions about mutations themselves can be considered to be a National level topic.


Q: Are xenocrypts only limited to Spanish? The wording makes it unclear. (Section: 3 / Paragraph: e / Line: 7)

A: Yes. For this year, all Xenocrypts will be in Spanish.

Q: For aristocrats with spelling/grammar errors, should the errors be included in the final answer? (Section: 3 / Paragraph: e / Sub-Paragraph: iii / Line: 5)

A: Yes. The final answer should exactly match the errors in the encoded text. Specifically if the aristocrat was LFOE JG KOI GNFQJH then the correct answer would be HEAR IS BAD SPELIN in order to count as zero mistakes.

Q:  Is xenocrypt necessarily monoalphabetic substitution? (Section: 3 / Paragraph: e / Sub-Paragraph: vii / Line: 1)

A: Yes. All Xenocrypts will be mono-alphabet substitution following the same substitution rules of Aristocrats.

Q: What type of baconian Cipher is being tested, the one in which V and J do not have a unique code or the one where all the letters have a unique code? (Section: 3 / Paragraph: e / Sub-Paragraph: vi / Line: 1)

A: The Baconian ciphers will use the 24 character alphabet in which I and J are both represented by ABAAA and U and V are both represented by BAABB.

Q: Will the crib necessarily be provided in the exam? (Section: 3 / Paragraph: f / Sub-Paragraph: iii / Line: 1)

A: Not for all questions. "cribs" (also known as Hints) will only be supplied for cipher types under rules 3.e.iii.(1), 3.e.iii.(3), 3.e.iii.(5),, 3.e.vii, 3.f.iii and

Q:  Does "Mathematical Cryptanalysis of the Affine Cipher" refer to merely decoding a cipher given the a and b values, or determining the a and b values from given ciphertext? (Section: 3 / Paragraph: f / Sub-Paragraph: vii / Line: 1)

A: Mathematical Cryptanalysis of the Affine Cipher means that the student has to decode the entire plain text of the cipher given two plain text characters to match the cipher text.

Q:  For monoalphabetic ciphers, is an error defined as per incorrect letter or does one error encompass everything from that letter matching to an incorrect letter? If A is B and if the word AA is translated by mistake to CC is that 1 or 2 errors?. (Section: 4 / Line: 1)

A: Errors are counted against the decode phrase and not the alphabet. If A is supposed to map to B, then AA mistakenly translated to CC would count as two errors.

Q:  Must competitors finish the first question before moving on in order to obtain points for the bonus, or may one or two students move on from the first question while others work on the first question in the first 10 minutes? (Section: 3 / Paragraph: d / Line: 1)

A: Rule 3.d states that "participants are free to answer the questions in any order, working individually or in groups, attempting whichever of the questions seem right for them." Therefore, there is no requirement to complete question 1 before moving on to the other questions to be eligible for the timing bonus on the timed question.

Q:  Are different types ( i.e. pencils, highlighter, pens, etc.) of "writing utensils" acceptable? (Section: 2 / Paragraph: a / Line: 1)

A: Yes. pencils, highlighters and pens are all valid writing instruments. However, any solutions written must be readily read by the person grading the test and an answer written only with a yellow or other color highlighter may be scored the same as a non-answered question.