The Collected Wisdom of Science Olympiad Coaches

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Sent: Friday, January 19, 2001 5:51 AM

Subject: [SOCoaches] another fund raising idea
This may sound whacky, but give some thought to pinewood derby racing as a fundraiser. The same event the cub scouts do. My son Ben just had finals in his Cub Pack last night at a local church. The Minister was also there and I asked what he thought of the racing. He chuckeled over the question. It turns out they use the same track for their own church racing but the twists are anyone can race and you pay $.75 for each time down the track. They have a couple of divisions Junior, open (adult) and seniors. He figures they generate an extra $3,000 a year for local charities. They get as many non-members coming in as they get regular church members from all over the area.
That gave me pause to think. Not only can funds be generated for your non-profit team, but the bonus would be that you will witness the people with an engineering knack for construction. These mentoring skills may bode well for teams struggling with build-it events such as Mission Possible. The tracks are not all that difficult to build and operate. You could have internal school racing at a cut rate and public racing at full cost.
Just food (and funding) for thought!
Tom Sanders
From: Tom Sanders

Sent: Friday, March 24, 2000 1:15 PM

Subject: Fundraising with Flight
Jeff McManus reminded me of one team's fundraising story.
An SO "B" team here in IN invited some NFFS members to put on an an indoor airshow in the gym in front of the whole student body. It was to kick off "AVIATION WEEK" at the school. Over 30 models from scale models to ultralight competition models were flown to present the history, science, math and technology of flight. The high point came at the end when they flew 10 ________'s ( no advert this time) with a 12" loop of 3/32" tan rubber. They chose at random 10 kids from the 700 and made a contest, right there, - called a mass launch. All airplanes were launched at once, last three down got first, second, and third place ribbons. Then, they showed their audience nice plaques for an all school competition (PTO purchased). The hook was the students had to purchase their kit from the SO team and had 3 days to build and trim before the elimination rounds started. Two days of eliminations to get to the top 3.
Needless to say the student body and their teachers loved the in-school excitement.
Ok here's the $'s - the bulk packs and contest rubber cost them $1,060.00 to make up 700 kits. The team packed each kit in ziplock bags on a Saturday. Add 10 winders (5 to1) $59.95 the total out of packet was about $1,130.00.
Each "kit" was sold for $4.50 ea. Total Sales were $3,150.00 minus the $1,130.00 and they cleared about $2,000 for their SO team.
Not a bad way to go.
Tom Sanders, Education Products Director
From: Ed Linard

Sent: Thursday, September 14, 2000 5:10 AM

Subject: "fairness??"
On the question of “fairness” ---
We as coaches are faced with a dilemma. At what point does a coaches (parents / mentors) helping a student, become “unfair”?
I would be very interested to hear your opinions. At what point does the Coach (parent/mentor) cross the line? ( this occurs in all the building events not just planes !! ) Here are few examples with regards to SO “Wright stuff” :
1.) Coach (parent/mentor) hands rules to student and lends no assistance.

2.) Coach (parent/mentor) helps student research possible models and kits to try, purchases the kits and lets the student “fend for themselves”.

3.) Coach (parent/mentor) helps student by showing the student techniques needed to build a good model and lets student do all the building.

4.) Coach (parent/mentor) helps student build some of the harder parts of the model. (i.e. nose block, bending wire etc.).

5.) Assuming 3 or 4. Coach (parent/mentor) then verbally helps student make all the trim adjustments. Coach (parent/mentor) never touches plane after plane is built.

6.) Assuming 3 or 4. Coach (parent/mentor) then “physically “ makes all the trim adjustments. Coach (parent/mentor) touches plane, cracks wing to change wash-in or wash-out, adjusts pitch on the prop, changes thrust angle, or any of a number of trim adjustments possible.

7.) Coach (parent/mentor) builds and trims plane then hands it to the student to fly.
I have personally seen all seven of these examples in SO competitions over the last few years. (At Invitational , Regional , States , and National competitions).
My concern starts between 5 and 6. At the point of 5 most students (who put in the effort) will have a reasonably competitive model flying over 2 min and be able to independently use that model in a competition. At the point of 6 the quality of the model now depends on the ability of the coach (parent/mentor) not the student.
I have seen a student build a model (which flew 2:30-2:50) consistently. Taken to a special mentoring session in our area, which had several excellent modelers there to help the students. Within 4 hours of flying and trim adjustments made mostly by the mentors themselves, the plane was flying over 4 min. The student was delighted and amazed at the difference in his model until I explained to him that the model could not be used in competition anymore since the mentors had made so many of the modifications

on his plane. I told him that he could rebuild the exact model using the knowledge he had gained that day and see how well the new plane flew.

The new plane did fly better than his first plane (3:15) but he never did get anywhere near 4 min again. He has been mad at me ever since that day since a 4:00 min model would have medaled at nationals, but I’m sure he will get over it. My son usually does.
Would love to hear your opinions.

Ed L (a concerned coach)

From: Tom Sanders

Sent: Thursday, September 14, 2000 2:35 PM

Subject: fairness-
In reference to Ed Linard letter on fairness and Wright Stuff...
Up to #5 I would consider acceptable as long as these conditions were met:

1) The mentor was explains the reasons for change in trim.

2) A specific process is followed, "The 10 steps to trimming a model".

3) The student maintains a written log of each change and the results of each test flight.

Keep in mind that this is not so much a build-it event (how pretty is your model) than one to demonstrate the students knowledge of physics via the in-flux variables of aerodynamics.
As for 6 and 7, I would absolutely agree that nothing is acheived by the student.
Take note in the new rules about models being visually inspected in their disassembled state before flying. This is for those fancy models that can be disassembled for transport. Usually, they are high performance designs and this forces the pilot (student) to re-trim the model for the contest site. Trimming the model, especially on contest day, is the absolute way to test whether a student knows their Wright Stuff. This change in the rulles will effect those adults so compelled to test/trim the model at the site before the contest. This does not happen often but there is no lower form of deceit than students launching a model that they did not trim themselves.
Tom Sanders
From: Denise Lyon

Sent: Thursday, September 14, 2000 9:53 PM

Subject: Re: "fairness??"

As stated by Tom, I would certainly agree with any version through 3. I also think level 4. and and 5. are fine with conditions. For level 4., I thought a post by a Mission Possible coach last year, which gave his criteria for "when it is OK to physically help" was an excellent general guideline - if the student makes 3 unsuccessful attempts (with verbal coaching and after demonstration), it is OK to step in and provide enough assistance to get the job done in an adequate fashion. Naturally, you would adapt the 3 attempts criteria for airplanes (i.e. you wouldn't wait until they had sanded three noseblocks incorrectly). And for something like bridges, you would still not physically help beyond perhaps lending assistance (assistance, not doing it for them!) on a single joint or member (which would not make a difference in the overall picture). But you should provide a bit of help (sand a bit as a demonstration to show them how; let them try again, maybe later demonstrate a bit again to help them see how to refine their technique, etc.). Basically, this is your level 3., except the demo bits are being done as PART of the process of building a part. Don't do it for them - help them do it well enough to function. In an *extreme* case, you might have to pitch in a lot on the first model so that they end up with something that can fly well enough to learn on. Make it clear to them that this one is for practice and they'll need to do their own later. If they need an extra hand to hold something and you happen to be around, I see nothing wrong with this either, provided you have the self control not to adjust something while you are holding it. If you don't, then don't hold it! :-)

As for level 5., I consider this perfectly acceptable, provided the coach/mentor is giving the verbal instructions as part of instructing the student in the mechanics of flight and trim adjustment (i.e. explain the "why" behind the "how"). Preferrably this is done less in the manner of dictation and more in the manner of guidance (asking leading questions to help the student participate in figuring it out). Personnally, I think MOST students on the middle school level, where I am coaching, NEED some help through level 5.
The idea, IMO, is that they aquire the knowlege and skills. Exactly HOW they aquire the knowlege and skills is not so important - whether by reading a book or listening to your instruction - what is the difference?
Level 6. and 7. are, IMO, clearly beyond what is ethical if they are done to a model to be used in competition.

Denise Lyon, parent and coach, division B

From: Martin D Alderman

Sent: Friday, September 15, 2000 5:38 AM

Subject: Coaches ... Hands Off ... Mentor On
I really like the way Ed Linard framed the issue of the point at which mentoring of students becomes unethical. I feel that mentors should universally keep their HANDS off the kids projects, but that they SHOULD teach the kids the science and the psychomotor skills behind what they are trying to accomplish!!! Tom Sanders followed up with a clear set of three requirements in mentoring the trimming of a model. Ed's clear list of levels of mentor involvement for Wright Stuff could easily be plugged with similar levels for each technology/engineering event, and form an excellent framework for discussions like this one! Analogous steps, like those Tom wrote, can also be easily identified for each technology/ engineering oriented event, and help greatly in the mentoring of our students. Thanks for the clear statements, Ed and Tom!
I got back into modelling in a big way(non-S.O. classes ... Ministicks, Pennies, and a little R/C), so I am not tempted to get my hands on the kids work. I imagine the fact that the models are so VERY cool doesn't help mentors who don't build models of their own to keep their hands off! My approach is to have the kids watch me trim my own new non-S.O. model (I explain each step, and why it is done), and then they apply the principles to their own models. This works great for me and for them!
From: samnsaenz

Subject: [science-olympiad-coaches] Cheap Missions

Sent: Sat 4/20/2002 5:49 AM
Mission Possible, the premier event of Science Olympiad! After years of working with this event, I have seen it develop into a 'showcase' event that teams can easily rally around. This event teaches design engineering, construction techniques, abstract thinking, concrete thinking, rightbrain/leftbrain use, brainstorming, develops interpersonal relationships and problem solving to the highest degree.

Teaching students to 'think out-of-the-box' and watching them brighten up when you rotate their lever 90 degrees from their orginal postion and they realize that the problem can be solved using a vertical rather than a horizontal lever is a true joy. Asking "So, how do you think we could connect this part to this part?" and walking away only to have them come up with an answer 5 minutes later is just great. I love this.

Low cost materials is another wonderful part of this event. We built 2 MP projects. The major costs were $2.14 for the base boards and border, $3.00 for glue stick, and miscellaneous hinges, screws and hardware. At the outside, I would say the entire projects cost less than $20.00 FOR BOTH OF THEM! And, both projects had the 6 machines, 30 transfers and no duplication of tranfers. One project dropped 12 marbles and the other dropped 25 marbles. (the second project was build in 8 school days, before the competition, at school, before and after classes in 30 minute to 2 hours sessions)
Using a shampoo bottle, empty spool of thread and pencil to make a wheel and axle is exciting, but when the kids see it actually work....THAT'S THRILLING!
Other Science Olympiad team members come by the building areas and the Mission Possible team love explaining the sequence up to whatever point they have arrive in the process. These are the 'rehersals' for the cometition that solidifies the teams' understanding of what they are doing and trying to accomplish.
Donated jars of screws, dead portable drills, muddy wooden stakes from garage sale signs, corrogated plastic from roadside advertising signs, coat hangers and empty shampoo or milk cartons all make up part of the project. The battery holder was scavenged off out of a miscellaneous parts box. Pulleys are made from broom stick dowel with a hole drilled through the center and either a dowel for the axle or a coat hanger. Sides of the pulley are cut from poster board and glued to the sides of the cut dowel.
The students just stare at the parts and envision how they can be used and then discuss implementation. They love it.
This project need not be expensive, though I can easily see how it can become very cost prohibitive. I give the student a piece of white butcher paper and that becomes the design plan. They roll it out and sketch things they want to build before each session. They explain their ideas to me. I mold their ideas into workable logistics as we discuss their ideas as I ask leading questions for them to pursue. "How will this be done?" "Where will this connect?" "Is this the best solution for this part?" "Can you think of another way to accomplish this?" "How can you utilize this wedge to do this part?" etc.
Design engineering and coopertive learning and discovery are the fundamentals of this event. The real world is a Mission Possible. We have to work in teams. We have to depend on others. We have to decide on ways to solve problems that incorporate the group's ideas into one workable one. We have limited budgets. That's the real world of working on projects. We have to deal with failed ideas and redesign lesson plans and labs.
The listserver to which I am posting this offers hundreds and hundreds of helping hands and resource ideas. I have had the priviledge of helping others who have asked by taking digital photos of how our teams solved specific problems along with sketches of these solutions. Helping hands are out here throughout the Science Olympiad world. Websites abound. Ideas are countless.

Mission Possible develops these skills in our youth. This is the premier event that teams should rally behind and do. When it comes time to present, it is this event where the bulk of our Science Olympiad team will be found encouraging, cheering and in some cases comforting the Mission Possible engineers.

Keep this event. It embodies the basic tenets of Science Olympiad of 'Exploring the World of Science'. We love it (and of course at times we hate it when it doesn't work).
Hurray for the "Mission Possible"!
From: Jenn Wirt

Sent: Wednesday, February 21, 2001 9:42 AM

Subject: Re: [SOCoaches] Organizational Questions
Jordana Lacy wrote:


> I have a number of questions about the organization of your teams.


> 1. What type of kid is on the team? Are they AP/honors kids or just any kid that seems

> interested?
> 2. How do you balance the kids very full lives (band, sports, other clubs, etc) with working

> on the events? Do you meet as a class?

> 3. How many coaches/adults do you have working with the kids?
> 4. How many hours/week do you and the kids put in?
> 5. How do you pay for all the equipment?


> In general, I am trying to restructure the way our team is run, and the assistance I get from

> the school.there is a lot of pressure to improve our standings and I am looking for things that

> work for the C level.

> Thank you!

> -Jordana Lacy
From: Pam Greene

Sent: Wednesday, February 21, 2001 10:25 AM

Subject: Re: [SOCoaches] Organizational Questions
--- Jordana Lacy wrote:

> 1. What type of kid is on the team? Are they AP/honors kids or just any kid that seems

> interested?
We have a homeschool team, and we took whatever kids signed up. We had 8 kids on our team this year (our 1st year) and hope to have a full team with alternates next year.
> 2. How do you balance the kids very full lives (band, sports, other clubs, etc) with working

> on the events? Do you meet as a class?

We met 1 night a week from 7-9. Individual kids met together as needed in between. And we worked on it as part of our science in our individual homeschools.
> 3. How many coaches/adults do you have working with the kids?
I require the parent(s) of all kids on the team to sign up to coach at least 2 events. That worked well for us this year, so I will continue that next year.
> 4. How many hours/week do you and the kids put in?
Already answered above.
> 5. How do you pay for all the equipment?
We paid for it out of our own pockets. Generally the kids doing the event, those 2 families split the expenses.
My kids have set going to state as their goal for next year. We just had our regional and placed 6th for our 1st year competing.

Widsom's Way Christian Home Educators

From: Steve Laven

Sent: Wednesday, February 21, 2001 5:16 PM

Subject: Re: [SOCoaches] Organizational Questions
> 1. What type of kid is on the team? Are they AP/honors kids or just any kid that seems

> interested?

The type of kid that is on my team is one that is willing to show up an hour before

school and stay an hour or so after school. They are top students to below average.

> 2. How do you balance the kids very full lives (band, sports, other clubs, etc) with working

> on the events? Do you meet as a class?

Those students willing to come in to practice mornings are able to do afternoon sports.

They seem to be involved in all activities.

> 3. How many coaches/adults do you have working with the kids?
This year I have parents coaching four events. I try to do the rest.
> 4. How many hours/week do you and the kids put in?
There are eight to ten hours of practice at school each week. The starters at our regional will have been to well over 50% of the pracctices. I know that many of them spend many hours working on their own (it shows in what they know).
> 5. How do you pay for all the equipment?
Some support from an Academic Booster Club. Most is from parents of the kids in the event.
From: Mrs. Rous

Sent: Wednesday, February 21, 2001 5:18 PM

Subject: Re: [SOCoaches] Organizational Questions
My kids ranged from advanced honor roll kids to kids barely passing anything (and the average kids in the middle). The lower kids are highly motivatedbecause it's interesting and there are no "tests" like they have in school.
Specific events met for one hour each week. Some kids stayed everyday after school, others stayed only one or two days each week. We started this in October. Those involved in athletics were forced to make a choice. One girl chose SO over basketball, received two medals, and can't wait for next "season" for SO! During the past month, as students in my classes finished their work, they were allowed to do SO as long as they were doing well for class. This was a great motivator.
I wish we could do it as a class, but there are not enough periods in the day.
From: Trindel Maine

Sent: Wednesday, February 21, 2001 7:03 PM

Subject: Re: [SOCoaches] Organizational Questions
I'm answering as a parent volunteer and may not have all the details straight but will try. This is a 6 - 8 middle school with about 1000 students total.
On Wed, 21 Feb 2001, Jordana Lacy wrote:
> 1. What type of kid is on the team? Are they AP/honors kids or just any kid that seems

> interested?

They can be any kids but there is a strong tendency For them to be amongst the identified gifted population. Several of them do poorly in the regular classroom but the vast majority of them are quite bright. There are a lot more kids that want to be on the team than the 15 slots plus 2 alternates allows. So getting on the team is in itself competitive. Team slot selection is done by the 4 teachers helping to coach the event, wasn't done until this week (regional competition this coming Saturday), and is based on their mostly subjective evaluation of commitment, ability, and what does it take to get balanced coverage of all the events. Close to 50 kids have been working really hard for the last 2 months on whatever of the events interested them trying to get a slot on the team. The 15 + 2 alternates that actually get to be on the team were announced today. Most events had 5 or 6 kids seriously trying for the 2 slots allowed. Being competitively good at 2 or 3 of the events was needed to get a team slot. Working on some of the less popular events is often a good way to get on the team.
> 2. How do you balance the kids very full lives (band, sports, other clubs, etc) with working

> on the events? Do you meet as a class?

Kids have to make choices just like everybody else and can't do everything. Those on the team are ones who somehow made the time. A lot of very talented kids aren't on the team because they are investing their time elsewhere.
There is a 'science olympics' version of each of the 6th, 7th, and 8th grade science classes. These classes are responsible for the same curriculum as all the other science classes but with a generally more capable class can cover that stuff in a fraction of the time the regular classes do and the extra class time does get put towards science olympics training. These classes are largely self selecting, there is a pretty easy admission multiple choice test that mostly screens out those that would be markedly below grade level in science. In addition the kids had to do a specified project the previous spring to get in (last year was a balloon powered car). Standards are mostly that the kid actually made a serious attempt, high levels of success were not required. Anyway the class is mostly self selected by the students; those that put out the effort to get in generally do. Kids on the team don't have to be from the science olympics classes but generally are and do tend to have a better line on needed information.
> 3. How many coaches/adults do you have working with the kids?
There are 4 science teachers actively coaching events. Another two science teachers seem to help out sporadically. There are probably half a dozen parents actively helping one or more events. Several community experts have been recruited to help in their areas of expertise. This is particularly true of Wright Stuff, astronomy, dynamic planet, rocks and minerals, and bottle rockets. Mostly reflects what community resources the school has succeeded in tapping to date.
> 4. How many hours/week do you and the kids put in?
There was a purely local competition called Super Science Saturday loosely modeled after Science Olympics in Oct, this attracted about 1/3 of the schools participation (and 3 other middle schools). My impression of most of the teams that did well was that the kids had put in 30 or so hours in preparation for that. Others clearly had put far less in. Most of the serious working on events has been done afterschool, evenings, and Saturday mornings. It appears to me that the kids that were actually selected to be on the team have been averaging 8 hours/week extra since returning from winter break.
> 5. How do you pay for all the equipment?
Student body funds pay for some of the stuff, most notably things like bus transportion, much like they do for sports events. A lot of the equiptment has been accumulated over the years by the science department. The teachers clearly do have some budget for science olympics stuff but it isn't large. On the otherhand they've managed to accumulate a fair amount over the 12 or so years they've been doing this. The kids families also buy a lot of the resources their kids need to compete. This is particularly true of the engineering events.
Trindel Maine
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