Science Olympiad to host first Mason invitational virtually

Alisha Soni | Staff Writer

Mason Science Olympiad strives to make its first invitational as exciting and unique as possible despite COVID restraints.

During a typical invitational, schools nationwide bring multiple teams of 15 members to a chosen school who then compete in pairs among the 23 set events and additional trial events. With their designated schedules, the participants compete throughout the day before the award ceremony. 

However, due to COVID, Mason has been forced to host what is typically an in-person invitational on a virtual platform. With the hardships of COVID removing the usual fun of in-person invitationals, junior Kunal Arora and other members of the student-run club hope to create an enjoyable online invite. 

“We’re trying to make this invite as personal and fun as possible,” Arora said. “The season this year [has] definitely been impacted a lot by COVID. Usually what makes it so special is that we’re always hanging out together from after-school bus rides to competitions. Since COVID has come around, virtual competitions can get a bit tiring because we’re just at our desks, taking tests when the tournament doesn’t do any fun activities.”

With the modifications that Science Olympiad members are undergoing to host their online invitational, members of the club have been determined to create changes that can make their first invite exciting. 

Mason has created new trial events that members will run during the invitational. Although some are not directly related to science, senior captain Yuv Sachdeva looks at it as a fun opportunity “that students have never had throughout the season.” TurboTypers, Nematology, and Astrology are the three main trial events designed by Mason Science Olympiad members that will appear in the invite. 

TurboTypers is a trial event split into two parts; the first is a written exam that assesses the knowledge of typing-related topics. The second part holds a typing test portion which measures speed and is factored into the overall score. Nematology judges the understanding of different types of worms and astrology is a written test about the stars and Solar System.

“These are topics that some of our members are passionate about, so the [members] decided to make events for them,” Sachdeva said. “However, the trials are so competitors can have a bit more fun if they are interested in these fields at all, or just want to try them out. That’s really what all of these are about; it’s a break from serious competition.”

Apart from the trial events, the club plans to create custom merchandise and specific prizes, along with activities beyond competing. Inspired by Chemistry and AP Chemistry teacher and club advisor Aimee Hansen’s mole-making contest, Mason Science Olympiad added it as part of the invitational. Along with the contest, Science Olympiad also intends to host a Discord server (a digital distribution platform created for connecting with friends or communities) open to all participants after the competition to achieve an in-person feel. 

In a typical invite, writers are hired from around the nation to write the tests; however, for Mason Science Olympiad’s first invitational, they plan to write the tests themselves.

“We wanted to make our first invite solely Mason run, [with] a lot of Mason pride in it,” Sachdeva said. “We thought this would be a good opportunity since we wanted to leave it to everyone to take part in writing some of the events. We have a lot of our current members writing and our advisors are a big part of it too, but we also contacted some alumni that graduated who excelled in their events to write.”

According to club advisor Aimee Hansen, Mason Science Olympiad members “have been pressing her to agree to host an invitational for some time.” Although getting in touch with sponsorships and other teams from across the nation has been a difficult factor, the benefits of the invite being online have made organization easier.

“We thought this year would be a good way to get our feet wet, get our name out there, and get started running a great virtual invitational,” Hansen said. “Honestly, COVID is causing the platform to be virtual, but we’re kind of used to it now since all the competitions have been virtual. I don’t see my captains as much, so communication is a little challenging, we have to work a little harder to make sure that we’re checking in with each other.”

Although Mason Science Olympiad’s first invitational remains strictly virtual this year, the club awaits in anticipation, with hopes of making Mason invites an annual event.

 “We’re all pretty excited,” Arora. “This is our first Invitational so it’s kind of a big deal to us, regardless of whether it’s in person or not. It’s a good way to ease [us] into and help us prepare for hopefully, a recurring invitation, next year.”

Graphic by Rachel Cai