From left: Altair Maine (Coach), Lily Zhou (grade 12), Suna Zekioglu (grade 12), Chiyoung Kim (grade 12), Richard Wang (grade 10), Woojin Park (grade 12), Len Soloff (Coach)
North Hollywood High School won the regional Science Bowl for the eighth straight year last month, earning them a coveted spot at the national competition in April in Washington DC.
NoHo beat out Harvard-Westlake School in Studio City (second place), Pacific Palisades Charter High School (third place), and Sherman Oaks Center for Enriched Studies (fourth place) to win.
“There is no single key to winning,” said Altair Maine, who has coached the NoHo Science Bowl team for the last six years, and coached the Academic Decathlon team for seven years before that. “You need a lot of ingredients all together—very smart kids, a huge time investment in studying science, and a lot of buzzer practice. And some competitive fire. Without any one of those, it won’t come together.”
For the competition students must answer college-level questions in math, science and technology. The competing team has five members—all of whom are from the Highly Gifted Magnet. (One of the alternates is from the resident school.) Tryouts are open to everyone; final selections to the team are made by scores on the tryout exam.
Team members meet and practice buzzing 5-10 hours a week. They also write thousands of practice questions and study non-stop on their own—raiding school library texts on chemistry, lugging textbooks around school to study when there is a free minute, supplementing with on-line material, and even memorizing terms right off Wikipedia.
“While studying from textbooks is absolutely essential,” said team member Suna Zekioglu, who plans to attend Cambridge next year. “There’s no replacement for time actually spent with your hand on the buzzer, listening to competition-style questions.”
The national championship will be in Washington DC, from April 25 to 29. North Hollywood has won the regional championship 15 of the last 16 years, and took second place at last year’s national competition.
Regarding NoHo’s chances at nationals, Coach Maine, who teaches AP Statistics (along with AP Physics B, AP Physics C, and Honors Physical Geology) said: “At nationals there are probably 5-10 other extremely strong teams, where each match is close to a coin toss, and I’m not sure it’s possible to predict who will come out on top. We’ll just see how it goes.”
Added Chiyoung Kim, NoHo’s team captain, who will head to Harvard next fall: “There were times it seemed like we would lose or we would fare very badly, but most of the team kept cool and kept buzzing like crazy…I can’t say for sure anything that is going to happen at Nationals, but it’s been a blast working with these guys so far.”
How smart are YOU?
For readers who think they know their scientific stuff, test your mettle on these questions from last year’s national finals:
“If you lost your favorite dog to cancer, which of the following combinations of cell and nucleus would you need to create a clone of your dog?
W) a nucleated somatic cell plus the embryonic nucleus
X) a nucleated egg cell polus a somatic nucleus
Y) a nucleated adult dog stem cell plus a mammary cell nucleus
Z) a nucleated placental cell plus a neuronal cell nucleus
“The Brayton cycle is commonly used to describe the thermodynamic cycle of what technology?”
(Answer: jet engines)
“Which of the following is closest to the energy of a thermal neutron, in electron volts?”