NC Science Olympiad
2015 Experimental Design
Division: B- Middle School
C- High School
Essential Standard Alignment: Science as Inquiry
Official Event Rules: See the National Rules Manual
National Event Page: Experimental Design
Required Materials: Splash goggles, something to write with
This event is run however the event supervisor deems necessary for the task(s) they have prepared. Teams may be give a full experiment or any combination of written test or stations. Teams will be presented with a semi-guided task or questions at each station.

Materials: Competitors MUST bring a writing instrument and safety goggles. Students may each also bring a timepiece (stopwatch), ruler, and calculator. Competitors are NOT allowed to use a cell phone for a timepiece or a calculator. The event supervisor will bring all additional materials and supplies needed to conduct the tasks.

Scoring: High score wins. Points are earned for the quality and accuracy of responses. Ties will be broken with preselected questions.

Common Mistakes:

  • - A statement of problem should never have a yes or no answer!
  • - Be careful not to confuse the different variable types (controlled, dependent, independent)


- The more detail you give in your answer the better your score will be. For example, if asked to write a purpose question for a given scenario that had to do with types of napkins and different liquids:
"Which napkin is most absorbent?" received 1 out of 4 points.
Examples of 4 point answers are"What is the effect of the brand of napkin on it's absorbency, determined by measuring how far (cm) water will diffuse up?" and "How does the volume of liquid absorbed by a napkin affect the amount of water retained as indicated by mass?"

In the same scenario, when asked for a hypothesis:
"If the napkin is thicker, then the napkin will be the most absorbent" received 2 out of 5 points.
Examples of 5 point answers: "If the overall density (g/cm3) of a napkin is increased then the absorbency will be higher as seen from the distance (cm) the water diffuses because a denser napkin will be able to contain more water within it's fibers" and "If the liquid has a higher sugar concentration, then the napkin will have a higher absorbency, meaning that the diameter of the liquid stain on the napkin will be greater. This is because the greater the concentration of sugar molecules, the more difficult it is to permeate through the napkin"

While all of the answers given are correct, for higher scores teams need a more complete thought, which means more detail about what they are truly testing or looking for in a section - what is it about the napkin that makes them different- brand? density? porosity? thickness? material? pattern? color? shape? And how are they testing that element (in their case, absorption) - through density, mass, diffusion, etc.

Event Resources:
2013 Coaches Institute Presentation (2014 Rules)
2013 State Test Division B- Traditional format
2013 State Test Division C- Station format
Example responses to the 2012 Division C State Test including the points they earned
2011 Coaches Institute Presentation (2011 rules- station format)
2007 Coaches Institute Presentation (2008 rules- national version)
2007 Experimental Design Presentation, Georgia
Excellent Powerpoint by Harry Dillner and Kathy Melvin, Delaware Science Olympiad
Great Explanation with examples of the Scientific Method - Science Buddies
Sample Events:
2014 Regional test - Station Format
2012 Regional test and key - Station format
2008 State Tournament Event(full experiment format)
2008 State Tournament Event Answer Sheet (full experiment format)
Wright Center for Science Education Example Events (full experiment format)

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