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What is Science Olympiad?

Science Olympiad is an international non-profit organization 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.

These goals are accomplished through classroom activities, research, training workshops and the encouragement of intramural, district, regional, state and national tournaments. The Science Olympiad tournaments are rigorous academic interscholastic competitions that consist of a series of individual and team events which students prepare for during the year. The competitions follow the format of popular board games, TV shows and athletic games. These challenging and motivational events are well balanced between the various science disciplines of biology, earth science, chemistry, physics, computers and technology.

There is also a balance between events requiring knowledge of science facts, concepts, processes, skills and science applications. In addition, during the day there are open house activities which consist of science and mathematics demonstrations, activities and career counseling sessions conducted by professors and scientists at the host institution occurring concurrently with the events.

Many states and regions have organized physics, biology or chemistry Olympiads, but few have combined all disciplines in one large Olympiad. The excitement of many students from all science areas competing and cheering one another on to greater learning caused one school district to coin the phrase "intellete". When they searched for a place to house their newly won Olympiad State Championship trophy, the only location available was outside the principal's office in the "athlete" showcase, so they convinced the school board to build an "intellete" showcase. An intellete is any person who demonstrates outstanding performance in an academic or intellectual pursuit (in this case, science). One of the goals of the Science Olympiad is to elevate science education and learning to a level of enthusiasm and support that is normally reserved only for varsity sports programs.

The history of Science Olympiad is a storied one.  Science Olympiad began when Dr. Gerard J. Putz, Regional Science Consultant for Macomb County Intermediate School District in Michigan, invited John C. Cairns, State Science Supervisor for Delaware Department of Instruction, to share the Science Olympiad program with Macomb County educators on March 29, 1982. The invitation was prompted by an article on the Delaware Science Olympiad (The Science Teacher, December, 1977) written by Douglas Macbeth, past Delaware State Science Supervisor that was brought to Gerard's attention by Michigan Science Teachers Association President David Larwa. The Delaware Science Olympiad was patterned after similar events in Pennsylvania and North Carolina. After two successful workshops at the Macomb Intermediate School District (March, 82) and the Edsel and Eleanor Ford Estate (January, 83), science education leaders in Southeastern Michigan planned two very successful tournaments at Lawrence Institute of Technology (April, 83) and Oakland University (May, 84). These two tournaments were so successful that Dr. Putz convinced Mr. Cairns that they should share the program with the rest of the nation. The Science Olympiad program was presented to the Council of State Science Supervisors at the National Science Teachers Conference in Boston in 1984 and sponsors were solicited from the conference exhibitors. Gerard's experience with the Army (Lt. Col. Air Defense Artillery, retired) and the understanding of its increasing need for a high tech modem force led him to the Army's booth. After much discussion, the Army decided to sponsor a National Leadership Seminar to determine the level of interest before they committed to sponsoring the 1st Science Olympiad National Tournament. Leaders from all 50 states and Puerto Rico were invited to this first Seminar at the St. Clair Inn in Michigan in the summer of 1984. The event captains, coaches and especially the students, so impressed the United States Army Recruiting Command (USARAC) executives and the N. W. Ayer Advertising Agency, that the Army decided to sponsor the 1st National Tournament which was later to be hosted by Michigan State University in May, 1985. Seventeen states participated in that tournament. The rest is history.
For more information, please contact:
Clark Bennett
South Dakota Science Olympiad
414 E. Clark St.
Patterson Hall, Room 207
Vermillion, SD 57069