Across the country, kids from kindergarten to 12th grade are polishing up their forensics knowledge, brushing up on their botany, and measuring their mastery of the metric system in preparation for the Science Olympiad. The series of competitions — which are held at the elementary, middle school and high school levels — give students an opportunity to compete as individuals or as part of a team in various scientific disciplines while increasing kids' overall interest in those ever-so-important STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) fields.

The first Science Olympiad was held in 1974 in North Carolina. It was a grassroots science competition sponsored by science teachers at 15 schools in the Carolinas. Today, more than 6,400 teams from 50 U.S. states compete each year. Kids compete on school teams in day-long science events, covering fields ranging from earth science to astronomy to engineering.  

Just what is a Science Olympiad? Unlike a science fair where kids work on individual projects that are presented and judged on the day of the event, kids work as teams in Science Olympiad competitions to test their skills in building, measuring, estimating, identifying and solving. Think of it as an Olympics for science geeks. Instead of running, jumping or swimming, science olympiads may have to build a catapult out of straws, tape and mousetraps; construct a device that keeps ice cubes from melting; or identify stars in the sky. At the local level, Science Olympiad winners get bragging rights at their school — and for middle and high schoolers, a chance to compete in state and national competitions.  

Check out this "Today" show clip to get a better idea of what's involved in a Science Olympiad. Does your school have a Science Olympiad team?  

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