NEWPORT NEWS, Va. -- Eighteen teams arrived at Jefferson Lab bright and early and ready to compete in the Virginia Regional High School Science Bowl on Feb. 6.
At the end of the day, Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology (TJHSST), Alexandria, prevailed and will represent Virginia at the Department of Energy’s National Science Bowl® (NSB) Finals to be held in Washington, D.C., April 28-May 2.
The day kicked off with Jefferson Lab Director Hugh Montgomery welcoming the students, their coaches and attending family members in the CEBAF Center auditorium. He opened his remarks with a topic frequently talked about in the news media, on school and university campuses, and in boardrooms across the U.S: “Most [people] in the country agree that the U.S. is short of people in STEM careers.” He then discussed how the Department of Energy and its national laboratories are working to help address this problem by improving inclusion, workforce diversity and workforce development at the national labs.
He commented about a Conference for Undergraduate Women in Physics event co-hosted by Jefferson Lab and Old Dominion University in January and attended by 150 women. The local event was one of nine held around the country and attended by more than 1,000 women. He described the event and its attendance as “very impressive.”
Addressing the National Science Bowl competitors, Montgomery concluded, saying, “Down the line, you are the source for the country’s leaders in science and technology. We are honored to have you here today. I’m confident you will enjoy the day; we have 50 volunteers ready to run the day’s matches.”
Teams spent the morning in a series of fast-paced round robin matches, with the top two teams from each division moving on to the double-elimination semi-finals in the afternoon.
The final match of the day pitted Langley High School, McLean, against TJHSST. Langley had incurred one loss in the semi-finals – during an earlier match with TJHSST. Langley began the final match in strong form, but TJHSST began pulling ahead before the break at the half and finished strongly with a final score of 114-54. Questions covered detailed topics ranging from physics and energy to chemistry, geology, plant biology, cellular physiology and mathematics.
The TJHSST team, coached by Sharon Webb, took home a $750 check for its school, a team trophy, individual medals and the regional banner that the team will carry to nationals, in addition to earning a berth in the NSB Finals, to be held near Washington, D.C.
As runner-up, the Langley team, coached by Leah Puhlick, took home a $550 check for its school and a team trophy.
Finishing in third and fourth places were the teams from Princess Anne High School, Virginia Beach, and Stuart High School, Falls Church. The Princess Anne team, coached by Jordan Turner, finished in third and the Stuart High School team, coached by Haile Russom, ended the day in fourth. Third place won a $400 check for its school and a team trophy, and fourth place received a team trophy.
A number of teams, eliminated from competition earlier in the day, stayed for the afternoon to participate in an event dubbed the Stay All Day Contest. Teams took part in three activities, each one presenting a different type of design or engineering challenge. Different challenges are presented each year.
Winning this event, and earning a $400 check for its school, was the team from Bishop Sullivan Catholic High School, coached by Eric Butryn and Mark Loehr. Individual prizes were presented to the overall Stay All Day winners, as well as to the team members earning the highest scores in each activity. (An in memoriam was included in the event program in remembrance of the former Bishop Sullivan coach, Scott Kline, who passed away in 2015.)
At the awards presentation, Jan Tyler, Jefferson Lab's Science Education manager, congratulated the teams – students, coaches and students’ parents. She acknowledged and applauded their hard work and tenacity in preparing for the competition, as well as the support provided by parents. She thanked Jefferson Lab management for its support in hosting the event and the 50-plus volunteers – lab staff, their family members, and friends of the Science Bowl program – who helped conduct the matches and run the event.
The Department of Energy created the National Science Bowl in 1991 to encourage students to excel in mathematics and science and to pursue careers in these fields. The National Science Bowl is one of the nation's largest science competitions. DOE's Office of Science manages the program and sponsors the NSB finals.
Over the next couple months, several thousand students will compete in high school and middle school regional Science Bowl tournaments. Teams of four or five students, square off against the opposing team in the fast-paced question-and-answer-style format where they solve technical problems and answer highly detailed questions in math and many branches of science. Most teams are coached by teachers from the students' schools and spend several months preparing for the regional competitions. Many states have one regional or statewide Science Bowl competition, while larger states, such as California and Texas, hold several regional competitions. The regional tournaments, which host 15-50 teams, are sponsored by federal agencies, national laboratories, institutions of education, and non-profit organizations. A number of regional competitions took place across the U.S. on Feb. 6.
Jefferson Lab will host the Virginia Regional Middle School Science Bowl on March 5.