Start a Team
So you're thinking of starting a Science Olympiad team at your school? We've got you covered! If you're unfamiliar with the program, check out our Discover Science Olympiad page first. These steps below are intended for middle and high school teams; see the Elementary page for all things K-6!
Six Steps to Science Olympiad Team Building Success!
You can start a team at any time of the year! If you have lead time, we recommend starting the team development process in spring of the preceding year so your team can be included in school budgeting and you have time to recruit co-coaches and volunteers, but fall is most common. Jump right in and go to a regional tournament, or start a club that works through the MYSO curriculum, reviews the season's rules, and begins the next year. Use our amazing BE brochures to tell people why they should be part of the Science Olympiad community. No matter how you slice it, these steps will get you going.
Step One: Gather support from your school and community
If you're a teacher, talk to your school administration or principal about starting a Science Olympiad team/club first. Every school has their own requirements about coaching stipends, hours and contracts, and that vital school leadership buy-in will get you the support you need like access to rooms, supplies and funding. Team costs are low compared to other STEM competitions ($125-$300 per team, depending on your state); factor in funds for team snacks, materials, supplies and transportation. Many teams get donations from local businesses or groups or run fundraisers to cover expenses. Science Olympiad has a national partnership with Double Good Virtual Fundraising, which gives 50% of sales to teams!
Along with your administration, you'll benefit from parent support, community members, local science museums and other teachers. If you don't know a thing about chemistry, pull in a chem teacher or local community college professor. Don't know how to build a catapult? Reach out to a local hobby or hardware store to find materials, and advice!
Step Two: Recruit interested students
Many coaches host a beginning of the year meeting in September or October to interest students in Science Olympiad. Talk to other STEM teachers in your school for student recommendations, but remember to think outside the box - consider kids who do theater, band or sports who have great leadership and organizational skills. Develop a deep bench of students with a variety of talents and interests. Follow these guidelines on Team Size and Grade Levels.
Step Three: Learn about events and study materials
Free Rules Manuals for the season are released the Tuesday after Labor Day - one for each Division. Check out the Event Pages for each challenge where we list helpful study resources including practice tests, study guides and web links. You can also visit the Science Olympiad Store for awesome Study Packs, Stacks, Tests Packs and videos. Our SOTV YouTube channel has helpful videos for events like Flight, Bridge, Crave the Wave and more. Science Olympiad's MYSO curriculum is also free and aligns with event topics. See our Program Progression document for how it all works!
Step Four: Start regular practices
Many teams host weekly or bi-weekly after school practices. Students work with partners to study for Knowledge Events, build their Lab Event skills, and prototype their Build Event devices. Again, pull in fellow teachers, parents or mentors to assist your team with snacks, subject-matter expertise, or developing leadership skills.
Step Five: Assign students to events
Only 15 students per teams can compete at a tournament - those students have demonstrated that they are skilled, prepared and have earned the right to represent your school. Before assigning students to events, get to know the tasks of the different types of events by diving into the Event Rules. Each event requires different skills and abilities.
- Knowledge Events - These test-based events require the ability to research, learn, organize and recall or find information quickly to answer questions.
- Lab Events - These lab-based tasks require the ability to perform lab skills, understand lab experiment results, record and interpret data.
- Build Events - These device design and fabrication events require the ability to ideate, prototype, build and test devices within the parameters set, to record data, and to explain designs.
- Hybrid Events - A combination of any of the two events above.
Step Six: Tournament Time!
Invitational Tournaments are a great way to get your team ready to compete when it counts. Many Invitational Tournaments share tests and feedback after the tournament, a great learning opportunity. Regional and State Tournaments are hosted by State Chapters in late winter and early spring. Keep an eye on your State Website for more information on dates and requirements. Winning teams from each state will have the opportunity to compete at the Science Olympiad National Tournament in May. See our Tournaments page for more!
Now celebrate! No matter how your team did during the season, recognize the hard work and dedication it took. Science Olympiad alums say the two most impactful experiences they had were finding their passion for science and developing lifelong friendships with teammates. Relationships and social networks are why students join - and stay with - Science Olympiad through middle school, high school, college and beyond!
Join us! Connect now with your state director.