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A Brief History

The Science Olympiad Started in North Carolina in 1974

The first recorded Science Olympiad was held on Saturday, November 23, 1974, at St. Andrews Presbyterian College in Laurinburg, North Carolina. Dr. Donald Barnes and Dr. David Wetmore were the originators of this event. Fifteen schools from North and South Carolina participated in this event. This Olympiad was a day-long affair, with competitions and demonstrations for high school students in the areas of biology, chemistry, and physics. There were four event periods during this day, and each event period had one fun event (like beaker race or paper airplane), one demonstration (like glassblowing and holography), and one serious event (like periodic table quiz or Science Bowl). A wonderful article by David Wetmore was published in the Journal of Chemical Education in January of 1978, documenting the success of recruiting students through the Science Olympiad. St. Andrews continues to host a Science Olympiad tournament to this day. The first-ever Science Olympiad for high school students and teachers agenda can be found HERE. A news release from the event can be found HERE.

Mr. John C. “Jack” Cairns was a teacher at Dover High School in Delaware in the 1970s when he learned about Science Olympiad taking place in North Carolina. He shared this information with Dr. Douglas R. Macbeth, the Delaware State Science Supervisor. Mr. Cairns was appointed to a steering committee to organize the first Olympiad in Delaware, which took place at Delaware State College in the Spring of 1977. Read about Jack’s role in Science Olympiad in his own words HERE.

By 1982, word about Science Olympiad continued to spread and caught the attention of Dr. Gerard Putz in Macomb County, Michigan. Dr. Putz invited Mr. Cairns to share the success of the Delaware Science Olympiad with Macomb County. As a result, Michigan hosted its first two tournaments in 1983 and 1984, while at the same time, Delaware hosted eight similar tournaments. Dr. Putz and Mr. Cairns then decided to share the program with the rest of the Nation and founded the National Science Olympiad organization.

The North Carolina Science Olympiad (NCSO) has existed in some form since 1974 and is now a proud program of NC State University. NCSO hosts over 30 tournaments across NC each year and serves over 15,000 students annually.