About Science Olympiad



What is Science Olympiad?

Science Olympiad is a competition for elementary, middle, and high school students.  Currently, we organize regional and state competitions for middle and high school students and a separate elementary competition for local school districts as requested.  Elementary Teams that compete are comprised of up to 12 students, lead by one teacher called a coach, who compete in 13 different events.  The events are in physics, chemistry, earth space science, biology and engineering.  Students engage in hands-on, interactive, inquiry-based activities that are lab-based, research-based, or prebuilt.   

Types of Events:

  • Lab based - events are those like Physics Lab, Forensics, or Can't Judge A Powder By Its Color, which require students to complete a lab activity during the competition. 

  • Research based events - events are those events like Amphibians and Reptiles, Disease Detectives, and Rocks and Minerals which encourage students to prepare research materials prior to the competition and use them in the event. 

  • Prebuilt events - are engineering events in which students build a device to accomplish a task or goal and the device is tested onsite at the competition.

Unlike some science competitions, Science Olympiad requires that students DO science during the competition rather than just report about a science project.  

How to get involved:

It is simple to enter: A coach registers a team for the competition.  When a coach registers for the competition, a rules manual is sent which contains the guidelines for each of the 13 events in which the students will compete.  For example, the rules for Mystery Powders will guide the students to prepare for content that will be in a specific area of chemistry, but does not give the specific lab the students will be required to perform onsite at the competition.   They must have a broad understanding of the concepts, as well as the skills to perform an experiment quickly and accurately.

During the course of the competition, students are required to complete the lab, research or compete with their engineered device within a 50 minute period.  Students will typically compete in 2-3 events during the day.   

In each of the 13 events, teams are evaluated by judges who determine how well students complete the task based on the rules described for each event.  For example, in the engineering events, have the students created their device with the correct dimensions, materials, and within the limitations of the rules?  Judges not only evaluate their performance and achievements but also provide advice so students improve for future competitions.  

All of the events are team based.  At least two students work together on each event, whether it is lab based, research based, or a prebuilt event.

Science Olympiad is the only competition highlighted in the National Science Education Standards (1996) as an excellent example of linking inquiry and assessment.  In addition, Science Olympiad has been highlighted in the 2007 National Governors Report as a national model to learning science and mathematics. Each year, we correlate the events to the Sunshine State Standards.  Starting in 2008, they are correlated to the New Sunshine State Standards.  

In the tradition of sporting events, Science Olympiad awards medals/ribbons to the top performing students in each event and trophies to the top performing teams.  Students take pride not only in their performance but also to their contribution to the team's performance.  Often, students depart the competition with a strong sense of accomplishment, looking forward to next year, yet their ranking may indicate a quite different response would have been expected!  Science Olympiad builds a love of science and learning that goes beyond all other academic programs.

This rich experience provides students with something that no other competition does:  It encourages teamwork, problem solving, and critical thinking.  



The Science Olympiad was created in 1983 by Dr. Gerard J. Putz and Jack Cairns to increase interest in science and as an alternative to traditional science fairs and single-discipline tournaments. After successful trial Science Olympiads were held in their respective states of Michigan and Delaware, the Science Olympiad began to grow. Now, Science Olympiad has members in all 50 states, totaling more than 12,000 actively participating K-12 schools.




Each elementary level team of 12 will prepare throughout the school year to compete in a Science Olympiad tournament. These inter-scholastic competitions consist of a series of 13 team events that encourage learning in biology, earth science, chemistry, physics, problem solving and technology.


Events in the Science Olympiad have been designed to recognize the wide variety of skills that students possess. While some events require knowledge of scientific facts and concepts, others rely on science processes, skills or applications. This ensures that everyone can participate, including students from technology classes or advanced science classes.




Although some events in the Science Olympiad are based on individual achievement, all events involve teamwork, group planning and cooperation. That is the real essence of the Science Olympiad. Our emphasis is on advanced learning in science through active, hands-on, group participation. Through the Olympiad, students, teachers, coaches, principals, business leaders, and parents are all bonded together as a team working toward a goal.


We would like to provide an alternative to the "isolated scientist" stereotype and remind students that science can be fun, exciting and challenging all at the same time. In college and beyond, students will find that the team spirit and good sportsmanship they develop during Science Olympiad will be deciding factors in their success.




The Science Olympiad is devoted to improving the quality of science education, increasing student interest in science and providing recognition for outstanding achievement in science education by both students and teachers. We hope to achieve these goals through participation in Science Olympiad tournaments, classroom activities, and summer training institutes for teachers. We also hope that our efforts can bring academic competition to the same level of recognition and praise normally reserved for athletic competitions in this country.