A Fermi question is one where a seemingly impossible-to-calculate answer is estimated. A famous example of a Fermi question is "How many licks does it take to get to the center of a tootsie roll pop?", where there is very little data to use and assumptions must be made. Fermi questions are named after Enrico Fermi, a physicist who is known for solving these types of questions.
In Science Olympiad, answers to Fermi questions are given in powers of ten. For example, an estimated
answer to the above question of 400 licks is put in scientific notation as 4⋅102, and the
exponent on the ten is used as the answer, yielding 2. If the estimate was 600 licks, or 6⋅102,
then the answer would be 3, rounding up.
Points are usually given as follows:
5 points for the correct power of ten
3 points for one away from the correct power of ten
1 point for two away from the correct power of ten
For example, if the correct answer to the number of licks to the center of a tootsie roll pop is 2, and the
given answer is 2 , five points are awarded. If the given answer is 3 or 1 , 3 points are awarded, and if
the given answer is 4 or 0, one point is awarded. All other answers would receive 0 points.