From Math Olympiad to Chemistry Olympiad, there are an incredible amount of competitive opportunities designed to showcase talent and excellence in a variety of STEM related fields. On the surface, these olympiads seem to only cater to students who dedicate hours upon hours of their time outside school to memorizing information about narrow scientific topics and various mathematical concepts and tricks. These students are truly the cream of the crop, and the very best will even go on to compete internationally. However, as daunting as it may seem, you do not need to be a certified genius to participate and grow from the experience.
The regional Math, Physics, Biology, and Chemistry Olympiad competitions are simply tests given on Scantrons, meant to determine who should move on to the state and national levels. If your goal is to reach the national level, studying is mandatory. However, many kids take it just as a way to gauge how much they know after taking a course in the related field. The tests aren’t meant to be aced, and its interesting to know how much material you truly know how to use. The Chemistry Olympiad test is administered about a month before the AP Chemistry test, so it’s also an opportunity to determine which portions of chemistry to brush up on. And the test itself is a learning opportunity, filled with questions that may peak your interest and encourage you to spend some time to learn more about the subject.
Science Olympiad is special in the sense that while individual achievement is highly regarded, it places a lot of emphasis on teamwork. And to foster that teamwork, there is quite a large time commitment upon joining a school’s Science Olympiad club and team. Unlike other Olympiad tests, there isn’t just one subject to study for, as you may choose to do 2 or 3 different events. And because it’s focused on teamwork, it’s far more competitive than something like Chemistry Olympiad. You aren’t simply competing for yourself, you are also competing for your teammates. If your goal isn’t to compete, Science Olympiad is a golden opportunity to learn about the intricacies of a topic that may have been covered less extensively in school. It isn’t for a grade, and there isn’t any required homework. But a wide majority of students will choose to expend considerable energy in becoming the best in their event. The environment isn’t as friendly as other Olympiads due to the sheer number of students who want to showcase their expertise, but if used as a way to learn more about science outside of school, it’s definitely something that will expand your knowledge of the world. The team building aspect is also a benefit, however under some circumstances it may do more harm than help. Competition is a double edged sword.
Olympiads are known for their competitive nature, but they also are opportunities to learn more about the subject hand and possibly grow to appreciate to depth that all subjects have. School can only teach so much, and as a result, Olympiads can be used to further your learning about a subject. Or they can be a benchmark of how much you know, as displayed by the Chemistry Olympiad test. Olympiads are more than simple competitions for smart kids to show off their proficiency at math. They are meant to challenge, to educate, to foster an interest in the subject. Because while one genius can revolutionize a field, science is ultimately defined by the numerous researchers who work alongside the genius, performing peer review, conducting their own experiments, and ultimately applying the research to real life situations. Olympiads aren’t all about competition. They are gateways to a future in a STEM related field and a brighter tomorrow.