Over 100 students from Bay Area high schools came to the Department of Energy’s SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory on Feb. 8 to compete in the Regional DOE Science Bowl. The 28 teams were paired off and sent into 12 rooms to battle it out in the first of 12 rounds. Each round consists of a series of fast-paced questions based on biology, chemistry, physics, earth and space sciences, energy and mathematics. The winner of each round then goes on to face another winning team, while the losing teams fight to regain a seat in the competition.
Harker breezed through the morning rounds, going into the afternoon undefeated. The afternoon started a bit shakier for the team, as they fell behind Saratoga High School by over 50 points in the first half of their second game.
“It was nerve-racking,” recalls Harker co-coach Robbie Korin. “It wasn’t obvious if we were going to pull it back or not.” But the team came back strong in the second half and managed to maintain their streak.
In the last round, Harker faced off against Saratoga once again, marking the end of a five-year final-round showdown between Harker and Lynbrook High School of San Jose, which was knocked out early on in the competition. This time the game went a lot smoother for Harker, and they ended the day undefeated and as regional champions.
Harker will move on to the 2020 National Science Bowl (NSB) competition hosted in Washington, D.C., in April.
Fostering scientific curiosity
This was SLAC’s 15th year hosting the annual competition. Created in 1991 by the DOE, the goal of the National Science Bowl, both then and now, is to foster student involvement in math and science activities important to DOE and the nation. Every year, more than 9,000 high school students and 5,000 middle school students will compete in 65 high school and 50 middle school regional Science Bowl tournaments. The first SLAC regional was in 2005.
“Science Bowl really started, and now maintains, my genuine interest in science as a whole,” says Emily Liu, captain of Harker’s Science Bowl teams. “It’s really kept my curiosity alive. I’m always on the lookout for science factoids and science articles in the news.”
Walter Swasdibutra, DOE federal project director, welcomed the students at the beginning of this year’s SLAC Regional, which was coordinated by SLAC Events Specialist Molly Glover. More than 60 volunteers were recruited and trained as match moderators, scorekeepers, timekeepers and science judges. Many volunteers are SLAC employees or Stanford students who once competed in Science Bowls themselves.
In each 16-minute competition round, moderators read questions to be answered by the contestant who buzzes in first. Bonus questions allow the four-person teams to collaborate on an answer.