Academic event season is here, and we’ve got a roundup of key dates

Team of students wearing masks

Students from Esperanza High School’s Academic Decathlon team pose for a group photo in 2021. This year’s Orange County Academic Decathlon will span three days starting Jan. 22.

It’s shaping up to be a year like no other — again.

But even if this school year isn’t exactly business as usual, there are still opportunities for students to test their knowledge and sharpen their skills in history, science, math, reading, writing and an array of other subjects while building lifelong friendships.

Academic event season is upon us, and here’s a rundown of some of the standards-based contests and events that OCDE will have a hand in from now through June.

January 22

Orange County Academic Decathlon, Day One. Founded in 1968, the Academic Decathlon is a 10-event scholastic contest staged at the county, state and national levels. Participants will kick off the communications portion of the event on Jan. 22 by presenting prepared and impromptu speeches and participating in personal interviews.

January 29

Orange County Academic Decathlon, Day Two. Decathletes will take 30-minute multiple-choice tests in the subject areas of art, economics, literature, mathematics, music, science and social science on Jan. 29.

February 1-5

Orange County Robotics Consortium (OCRC) Competition. Thirty-two teams will participate in this year’s VEX IQ Challenge Pitching In competition. On a 6-by-8-foot rectangular field, student-made robots rack up points by showcasing a number of skills, some with their creators at the controls and others as autonomous machines with limited human interaction.

February 5

Orange County Academic Decathlon, Day Three. The final day of this competition will feature the Super Quiz Relay, a high-energy contest that feels like a sporting event. 

February 26

SoCal Joint Regional Science Olympiad Competition. Science Olympiads are like academic track meets, with a series of STEM-related team events connected to disciplines including biology, Earth science, chemistry, physics, astronomy and engineering. This year’s competition will be held virtually, with most students competing from their school sites. Top performers go on to compete at the state level.

February 28

Orange County Spelling Bee, written round. This first round includes the winners of school and district spelling bees throughout Orange County. The event typically takes place at OCDE, where students write spelling words and also answer a few vocabulary questions, since vocabulary is part of the Scripps National Spelling Bee. The top spellers from the written round advance to the final round the following Saturday.

March 1-12

California Academic Decathlon. The winning teams from the Orange County Academic Decathlon will be joined by elite squads from other counties for this state-level competition.

March 5

Orange County Spelling Bee, final round. One by one, students take turns stepping up to the podium to spell their given words over the course of several rounds. A winner is announced when all but one have been eliminated. The top speller will go on to represent Orange County in the Scripps National Spelling Bee.

Orange County Regional Elementary Science Olympiad. This competition for grades four, five and six includes such events as “Crime Busters,” “Pasta Bridge” and “Disease Detectives.” Students will participate virtually.

March 11 and 12

National History Day-Orange County. National History Day draws about 600,000 U.S. participants with contests at the district, county, state and national levels. Working individually or in teams, students in grades four through 12 conduct extensive research and develop elaborate projects, including original websites, papers, documentaries, podcasts, performances and exhibits. This year’s event will be modified slightly as a result of the pandemic. The 2021-22 theme is “Debate & Diplomacy in History: Successes, Failures, Consequences.”

March 12 and 19

Orange County Academic Pentathlon for grades seven and eight. The Academic Pentathlon is a five-event competition for grades six, seven and eight. Under the guidance of their coaches, middle school teams tackle the fine arts, literature, math, science and social science and compete in their own Super Quiz Relay. Grades seven and eight compete on March 12 and 19.

April 2

Southern California State Science Olympiad Tournament.  The top middle and high school Science Olympiad teams from Orange County will compete against other squads from Southern California for the right to represent California at the national tournament.

May 14-17

Gallaudet University’s Battle of the Books. Sponsored by Gallaudet University, this contest was created in 2012 to boost literacy, encourage critical thinking and promote sportsmanship for middle schoolers who are deaf and hard of hearing. The finals are typically in the spring, following local preliminary rounds in November and playoffs in December.

April 12

California Science & Engineering Fair. The final science fair of the academic year for students in grades six through 12 will take place at the California Science Center in Los Angeles.

April 21-23

United States Academic Decathlon. For Academic Decathlon competitors who advance beyond the state level, the national championships will be held virtually in 2022.

April 30 and May 7

Orange County Academic Pentathlon for grade six. This time it will be teams of sixth-graders competing in the Academic Pentathlon, which will include a Super Quiz Relay event.

May 6-8

National History Day-California. This competition, held in Rocklin, Calif., is open to county NHD champions in grades four through 12.

May 14 and 21

Orange County Academic Decathlon, Junior Varsity competition. Open to ninth- and tenth-graders, this competition features eight events, culminating with the Super Quiz Relay.

June 12-16

The National History Day National Contest. State-level NHD winners will advance to the championship, which is typically held in June at the University of Maryland at College Park.