What is the Science Trivia Challenge?

Quiz Format

Team Registration (see note below)

Event Schedule

Try these Sample Questions

What is the Science Trivia Challenge?

The Science Trivia Challenge is normally a friendly, spirited contest hosted by the MIT Club of Boston that is part of the Cambridge Science Festival, organized annually by the MIT Museum. However, the 2021 Challenge is again

                                         CANCELLED DUE TO CORONAVIRUS CONCERNS. 

In 2022, we hope resume the Challenge at its customary home at the Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard at 415 Main Street in Kendall Square, Cambridge, MA. It is a live team trivia quiz where contestants are challenged on their knowledge of biology, chemistry, physics, mathematics, astronomy, computer science, earth sciences, inventions, local contributions to science and other subjects. The information might be useful or purely trivial and might test knowledge of scientific methods, theories, or history. Teams have to be ready for anything, and any can win!

The Challenge is a contest between teams which consist of students in 12th grade or lower (High School or Middle School). The maximum team size in any given round is five players, but teams can have up to ten players total. High School Teams are limited to students through grade 12, with a limit of two teams per school. Middle School Teams are limited to students through grade 8, with a limit of one team per school. (A second team from Middle School team may be included on a space available basis, please e-mail sciencetrivia@mit.edu to request). Teams are entered on a first-come, first-served basis until the event capacity is reached, so it is best to register early.

Every contestant will receive a certificate and several other gifts. The top finishing teams will also be treated to dinner by one of three Nobel Laureates. For many years, an Open Division for adults was included, but no longer. The organizers wanted to make more spaces available to the growing interest from local Middle and High Schools. The first annual Science Trivia Challenge was held back in 2007, and was hosted by Ira Flatow of "Science Friday" fame.

Quiz Format

  • The competition is broken into rounds of 10-20 questions each. Questions can be multiple-choice, matching, short-answer, or multiple-answer format. Each question is given a point value, with partial credit awarded in some cases.
  • All teams competing in a given round will be positioned at a table on the stage, with a scorekeeper for each team. When the moderator asks a question, the scorekeepers will give each team an answer sheet with the question printed on it and space for the team's answer.
  • After a question is read, all teams will have a short amount of time to discuss the question, write down a final answer on the answer sheet, and hand the sheet back to the scorekeeper. After time has expired, the moderator will read the correct answer(s) and the scorekeepers will assign points accordingly.
  • For the High School Division, there will be two preliminary rounds with up to 9 teams in each. The higher-scoring teams from each preliminary round will meet in the Gold runoff round. The other teams will meet in the Silver runoff round. The winners of these two runoff rounds will win a Grand Prize. The Middle School Division consists of a single round, with the winner receiving a Grand Prize.

Team Registration

The following rules will apply to teams:

  • A player can only be a member (or alternate) on one team. Team composition can be changed prior to the start of competition, but cannot be changed once competition has begun.
  • For high school teams: There is a limit of five players per team in any one round. Each team is allowed to register with up to five alternates, but substitutions can only be made between rounds of play.
  • For middle school teams: Only five players may participate at a time, but up to five alternates can register. In the middle of the round, the Moderator will provide an opportunity to make substitutions.

After January 1, 2020 register your team HERE for the Science Trivia Challenge on the MIT Alumni Association registration system. Space will be filled on a first-come first-served basis.

The registration fee is $10 per team, payable on-line via credit card. This fee reduction from previous years is made possible by our Mathworks sponsors.

Event Schedule

  • 5:00 - 5:45  Team Check In and Reception
  • 5:00 - 6:00  "Meet the Scientists" of the Broad Institute
  • 6:05 - 6:25  High School Preliminary Round A
  • 6:25 - 6:45  High School Preliminary Round B
  • 6:45 - 7:00  Intermission
  • 7:00 - 7:05  A Word from our Sponsor, Mathworks
  • 7:05 - 7:45  Middle School Division
  • 7:45 - 8:00  Intermission
  • 8:00 - 8:20  High School Division Silver Final
  • 8:20 - 8:40  High School Division Gold Final
  • 8:40 - 9:00  Awards and Closing Ceremony

Food and refreshments are provided courtesy of our sponsor, Mathworks. Please contact sciencetrivia@mit.edu with any questions.

Try these questions from past Science Trivia Challenges...

   (Note: To see some additional questions, click here).

1. A fluid is considered "Newtonian" when its viscosity is independent of its shear rate. All but one of the substances below is a Non-Newtonian fluid. Which one is a Newtonian fluid?

a) house paint
b) ketchup
c) motor oil
d) shampoo
e) toothpaste

Answer: c) motor oil.

2. Scientists have long been able to calculate the masses of most planets, including Earth. It has taken longer to measure the masses of Mercury and Venus, primarily because these two planets lack what?

Answer: Moons.

3. Match each of the following animals with the way they consume their food:

1. Cow
2. Snake
3. Venomous spider
4. Whale shark
5. Parakeet
6. Raccoon

a) Grind in a gizzard
b) Chew, regurgitate, chew
c) Filtration
d) Dissolve and slurp it up
e) Chew
f) Swallow whole

Answer: 1-b; 2-f; 3-d; 4-c; 5-a; 6-e.

4. A gallon of gasoline contains about 132 million joules of energy. My iPhone has a 3.7 volt battery with a fully-charged capacity of 1400 mAh (milliamp-hours). Approximately how many times could I charge my phone with the energy contained in one gallon of gasoline?

a) 7
b) 70
c) 700
d) 7,000
e) 70,000

Answer: d) 7,000.

5. Match each of the following bathroom products with their common ingredients:

1. Anti-perspirant
2. Toothpaste
3. Shampoo
4. Shaving cream
5. Drain cleaner
6. Mouthwash

a) Isobutane (a propellant)
b) Ethanol
c) Sodium Monofluorophosphate (fluoride)
d) Aluminum chloride
e) Ammonium lauryl sulfate (a foaming agent)
f) Lye

Answer: 1-d; 2-c; 3-e; 4-a; 5-f; 6-b.

6. Match each of the following algorithms with what you might use to find:

1. Dijkstra's algorithm
2. Euclid's algorithm
3. Ford-Fulkerson method
4. Shor's algorithm
5. Sieve of Eratosthenes

a) Factors (on a quantum computer)
b) Greatest common divisor
c) Maximum network flow
d) Prime numbers
e) Shortest path in a graph

Answer: 1-e; 2-b; 3-c; 4-a; 5-d.

7. Good news everybody - my grow-ray worked! Now each cell in my body is the size of a pea (about 1 cm). Now I'm as tall as:

a) A 3-story building
b) The Burj Khalifa
c) Mt. Everest
d) The orbit of the ISS

Answer: b) The Burj Khalifa.


If you would like to submit questions for the Science Trivia Challenge, please submit them here: submit.