Tuesday, April 24, 2018


At each station will students be allowed to touch/manipulate any and all props?  For example, given an object and told to estimate weight can they lift and pass around the object.  Or if given an object and a box and asked how many of X fit in the box, can they put the one object in and out of the box at will?  Or, if given a container and asked to estimate the # of Y in the jar, can they lift the jar and turn it around at will?  Basically is there anything that they won't be able to touch, feel, lift, etc?

For majority of the questions the students may be able to touch the props. There may be one or two questions where they will not be allowed to touch. But questions like number of items in a jar, they will be allowed to take the closed jar in their hands and estimate.

Monday, April 23, 2018


I see Dragonflies generically mentioned in the Study Guide. There are many different kinds of dragonflies such as darners, skimmers, etc. Will the students be tested on each of them and are they expected to know each darner's/skimmer's family names and characteristics?
How many total questions can we expect for 4th grade and 5th grade students for Back to Nature?

The students will not be expected to distinguish between different kinds of dragonflies.  They should be able to answer questions about dragonflies as an order.

We are still finalizing the test.

Acids, Bases

It says that students are responsible for knowing only the Lewis Acid and Base definition.  (As a side note, this definition of Acids and Bases is not even tested in AP Chemistry let alone high school chemistry and instead the other two definitions are). 

However on the slide referencing what they need to know about acids and bases the following is listed:

"(5th grade only) What makes something an acid or base [H+]" which would be referencing the more commonly known definitions and NOT Lewis acid and base (electron donors/acceptors).
There are many different definitions for an acid and base, and I reduced the definitions that would possibly be directly tested to a Lewis Acid and Lewis Base. This is an elementary school event and students will be required to have a basic understanding of the pH scale, in particular how to test for pH and what the results generally mean. Questions regarding calculating H+ ion concentrations for acids & bases will not be asked.

Water Rockets

Q:   We have both a 3rd/4th grade water rockets team and a 5th grade water rockets team that practice together.  Our 3rd/4th grade team has only one 4th grader and it's become clear that the 5th grade team is a better match for him.  Is it possible for him to move to the 5th grade team?

(We know that the general policy is that students must stay in their grade level but we were hoping with the combined teams that this might be a possibility.) 

A:  A 4th grader may not compete on the 5th grade team.  

The combined 3rd/4th grade team for Water Rockets is by design and consistent across all schools.  There is an understanding that a combination of 3rd and 4th graders will comprise each team.   A student who is not a 5th grader competing on a designated 5th grade team would be an exception to the policy and is not allowed.

Sunday, April 22, 2018

Example for night sky test

To Infinity and Beyond:
Our co-supervisor has made a brief video demonstrating what the replacement to the dome test might look like to the participants. 

Here's the link to the youtube:
Please write to weso email for any further clarifications you may need.

On Target

On Target Range Announcement

The target will be marked on the floor at a point between
7 and 8 meters.   (that means it could be anything between
those two values, not necessarily at 7.5 meters).

Also just another reminder of the event change this year.   The
measurement for scoring will be made from where the
rocket comes to rest.

Friday, April 20, 2018

Circuit Wizardry #4

Circuit Wizardry, Workshop #4

Gravity Racer

In the rules it state..."A launch consists of holding the Gravity Racer with four wheels down on the ramp and releasing the Racer"

The kids designed a gravity racer with 4 wheels. They will hold the racer down on the ramp before releasing. Do all 4 wheels have to touch the ramp at the same time?
The intention of the rule is mainly that the Racer is on the ramp when it is released. We will not require 4 wheels (or tires) to be touching the ramp.


Photon Phun, Experiments

I was wondering if someone could elaborate on the 2nd and 3rd grade hands on experiment?

Will there be written instructions for them to follow or will someone be describing the experiment they need to perform?

Will they have set questions to answer or will they be writing free thought about their observations?

Will there be one written answer per team?  Will spelling and scientific terminology be important?  

Each of the hands-on exhibits (for all grades) consist of
 - a small hands-on experiment 
 - a short set of questions (3-5) to answer about your observations of the experiment
  • Each hands-on exhibit is designed to be completed in 5 minutes or less.
  • Each team will be given complete written instructions and are expected to read them and do the experiment.  Several event supervisors and volunteers will also be available to provide clarity if needed but there is not a formal presentation about the experiment.
  • There will be one set of questions given to each team to work on together and submit together.
  • The questions may be multiple choice or fill in the blank.  There are no lengthy responses required. 
  • Spelling will not be graded.  
  • Please review the Concepts Covered section of the Photon Phun event description for possible hands-on topics for each grade.

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

Back to Nature

For questions that are specific to a type of insect, for 90% or more of questions, we will only require answers to the level of specificity on the chart.  Meaning that while we fully support you learning as much as possible about any and all of the orders, if there were a question about a praying mantis specifically, we would accept the answers "praying mantis" or "mantids".  While these are not interchangeable terms, we've only asked for "mantids".  In contrast, an answer to a question pertaining to a Cecropia Moth/Luna Moth should not just be answered "moth", question about Honey Bee or Bumblebeee should not just be answered "bee", etc.

Question 1: Mantids is the insect name on the list. Can we assume that they should know common name Praying Mantis and Order Mantodea? Also  regarding Mantids, I'm seeing that it is sometimes listed as Family Mantidae (so, different spelling and now family instead of order) and Order Dictyoptera. I've seen also seen Mantodea listed as a sub-order. And sometimes I see Praying Mantid versus Mantis. 

So, is common name Praying Mantid, Order Mantodea correct?

Answer 1: While scientists are often making new discoveries that change how they classify animals and their relationship to each other, Praying Mantis is a mantid in the Order Mantodea, in the Family Mantidae.  

Question 2: There are a few kinds of cockroaches--should they know the American Cockroach? Also, similar to Mantids, they are sometimes put in Order Dictyoptera and then Family Blattidae but I see it in other places listed as Order Blattodea. Can you confirm spelling and which Order?

Answer 2: Taxonomy is always changing.  Currently, cockroaches are in the Order Blattodea.  We would accept this answer as it's in the Kaufman guide students have access to.  Some scientists consider cockroaches and mantids to be in the same Superorder Dictyoptera.

For WAAAAAAAAAY more information than you need and likely want, there's a nice article on Dictyoptera here. https://askentomologists.com/2015/03/16/unlikely-sisters-roaches-and-mantises/
For WESO purposes, you do not need to know this, we just think it's cool.  

Question 3: Ants are on the list--is there a particular ant they should know? Carpenter? Pavement?
Answer3: Ants, same concept as mantids.  More information is always encouraged and helps with an overall comprehension of Michigan insects, but with the exception of tie-breakers, the answer would be "ant".

Question 4: Just to be sure--4th graders only need to know the 14 insects on their list and identify their Orders. They won't be tested on Families, correct?
Answwer 4: Yes, with regards to classification, 4th graders only need to know the 14 insects on their list, their orders, and facts about bees, butterflies, beetles, moths, and true bugs.  Similarly 5th grade for the purposes of classification only needs to know the insects listed.  However, general questions on insect anatomy, life cycle, natural history, sociality, and impact on Michigan ecology are all possible.

If you decide you are really excited about insect taxonomy, I like this 4 minute video by EcoSapien.   https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ogh7_ITZ3Xg
Not required at all, but fun if you want to learn more.

Thanks and happy coaching!


Tuesday, April 17, 2018

Write It/Build It

Hi. I am coaching 4th grade Write It Build It and cannot find any reference in the event description about whether or not punctuation is allowed in the writing. Specifically, we are wondering about periods, commas, colons, dashes, parentheses, and bullet-points. 

Punctuation marks are acceptable as long as they are not used to diagram .  As punctuation in the written description, yes, they can be used.
Q2. Will the puzzle consist of items that the kids have to manipulate before placing and arranging. Like Folding paper to a certain shape, looping Zip ties/pipe cleaners into a shape, etc.? Just wondering as to what level of complexity is to be anticipated.

- No, all they need to do is place the items.

Q3. Could the kids have short forms like (P) for Portrait, (L) for Landscape? And if they write it so its P/L within a circle – I want to make sure they are not penalized as “drawing a shape”.

- Circling is drawing, so it is not allowed
- No drawings of any kind 
- If in the description (the writers write for the builders) it works for your team to write P, L instead of the full worlds, it is up to you

Q3a. In general… could you give more guidance on what would constitute ‘drawing a shape’?

- Please find the event description on the website for more details at

Q4. Will they have RULED sheets and an unlimited number of sheets if they need?
- Yes for both!
- Please find the event description on the website for more details at ps://docs.google.com/ viewer?a=v&pid=sites&srcid= YWFwcy5rMTIubWkudXN8d2Vzby13aX phcmRzfGd4OjNlZDM1ZTQ0NWQ5NTAy NWY

Gene-ius post workshop questions

Post workshop questions and comments.

Teams will be told what letter to use to indicate a particular trait.  For example, if the trait is eye color in mice, I will tell them to use E and e to designate the dominant and recessive alleles respectively.

Patterns of inheritance should be identified as autosomal dominant, autosomal recessive or X linked recessive (5th grade only) this year. 

Teams should know that when given a DNA sequence they should start the codon reading at the first available ATG in the 5’ to 3’ direction.  5th grade teams should know to begin translating an RNA sequence at the first AUG.

The DNA model may or may not be used during the event and will be provided if needed.  Full construction of the model will not be expected. 

When providing an amino acid sequence from a DNA sequence, teams should give the full name of the amino acid and write the word “stop” if given a stop codon.  A codon chart with the full names of the amino acids will be provided.  Spelling will not count as long as I know what they mean.  

An updated study guide is available which reflects the following corrections:
·      page 7 – an image was moved up which was covering the first line of a) monosomy
·      page 13 – there are six listed genetic conditions not five
·      page 16 – ribose was replaced with deoxyribose

To Infinity and Beyond: Change in test format; April 21 Planetarium Dome visits canceled

TO INFINITY AND BEYOND: Change in test format

Due to unavoidable circumstances, we will not have access to the planetarium to conduct the Dome Test on May 12, 2018. Please note the following changes in the test format:
  • We will have an Observation test and written test as planned.
  • Instead of an Observation test in the Dome, we will have an Observation test in the classroom by projecting images on a screen in a dark room. The students will be given a clipboard, red light source and an answer sheet to write down their answers.
  • We will be using Stellarium (a free open source planetarium for your computer) that most of you are familiar with. Since this is a familiar interface for most kids, we are hoping that they will adjust to the new format easily. Here is the link:
  • All competition rules remain the same.
  • We are yet working out the logistics for the event with the supervisors and will keep you updated.
  • The April 21st dome workshop is CANCELLED.

Monday, April 16, 2018

talking allowed?

Is there talking allowed between team members either during the write it or build it portion of the event?

I’m pretty sure I recall that answer is no to both & if there is talking then the team will be disqualified…but I wanted to confirm.
Thank you for your confirmation,
Write It/Build it
Talking and working together are expected during both phases of this event. They would want to practice volume control, so that they don’t give away their plan.


Pasta Bridges

Q: Is it ok for kids to use the clay to fuse the long pasta together across the bridge span (so not on the supports)?
A: Absolutely!

Q: Is there a particular purpose for the water and what are allowable uses?
A: We encourage teams to experiment with the water as it has historically been offered in this event. There isn't a suggested use for it per se ... just something that will be on the table if a team needs it. Please do let you students know it is available and if you do not use it in practice we suggest that students do not use it in the competition.

Saturday, April 14, 2018

Targets and Planning time in Photon Phun Relay

Will the targets be shown to the kids when they walk inside the reflection relay room. Or will they be expected to hunt for the targets during the one minute they have. We are confused as during reflection relay workshop, we were told, kids will need to hunt for the targets during the one minute they have. They wont be shown the targets. Please advise.
Targets will be shown to the kids before the one minute period during the reading of the posted script.  
At the end of the script, we will begin the one minute planning period.
Is the flashlight on or off during the 1 minute the team is given to plan? Also will the lights be on or off during that time?
Lights will be on and so will the flashlight during the 1 minute planning period.  

Gravity Racers tires on wheels?

I am a coach for 2nd grade gravity racers and my students are wondering whether the rubber tires must be included on the 4 wheels that are required?  Can they just use the gray plastic wheel without the tire attached?

The rubber tires are not required. The only relevant rule is "4. Teams may use as much or as little of the kit as they wish as long as all four wheels are used to roll the racer on two axles." Wheels and tires are technically two different parts, and the Gravity Racers description never mentions tires.

Friday, April 13, 2018

Gene-ius new slides from workshop

Volunteer Notification


Is it our responsibility to notify our volunteers of their shift times or will WESO be contacting them?


Once they are assigned we let you  notify them. That way you will also be in the loop.

Gravity Racer

During the 10 minutes building time, is there a ramp or some place for them to do a test drive? or the only thing they can do is build the vehicle? Thanks!

Your testing practice must happen before they come to the event. There will not be test drives the day of Olympiad.