Teens head to national Science Bowl
By Christopher Schurtz For the Sun-News
Some of the city's best and brightest students are on their way to Washington, D.C., this morning April 28, 2011, to represent New Mexico in the 21st annual Department of Energy National Science Bowl.
The five-member team from Las Cruces High School - Jennifer Hu, 17, Fiona McCrossin, 15, Dustin Hadfield, 15, Mary Mattakom, 15, and Jesse Gionnini, 15 - will be among 110 high and middle school teams from 44 states taking part in a nationwide test of their knowledge of math and science. "It's basically 'Jeopardy' from a science and math perspective," said LCHS science teacher and MESA coordinator Jennifer Hamilton, who will accompany the team while in Washington.
A team of four members, with one alternate, must answer questions ranging from earth science and astronomy to physics and math. And they'll have about five seconds to do it. Points are deducted for wrong answers, but a bonus question is granted for a correct answer, allowing teams to rack up points. Over the 17 rounds, question go from the basic, like averaging three numbers or something about Newton's laws of physics, to the more complex, like identifying certain types of graphs. "The questions come really quick. It's incredible to watch," Hamilton said. "It's as much speed as it is knowledge. You don't have much time to think about it. Either you know it or you don't."
It will be a return visit for Hadfield, McCrossin, and Gionnini, who first competed while enrolled in the science magnet program at Sierra Middle School. Hadfield said while each member may have his or her area of expertise, they all have a fairly equal grasp of all science and math topics. They meet twice a week for drills, getting ready for the pressure.
The national science bowl was formed by the DOE in 1990 to encourage math and science, and is now the largest event of its kind. The Department of Energy covers all expenses and makes all of the arrangements.
Students also participate in hands-on experiments, seminars and lectures. The question-and-answer competition begins Sunday. More than 14,000 students from 1,800 schools took part in regional competitions this year. The Las Cruces High team actually beat a fellow team from LCHS to win the regional title. The final championship is held Monday in the National Building in D.C. and Energy Secretary Steven Chu will present awards. The top winners will head next to the International Science Bowl in Australia, while other awards include scholarships and prizes.