Last Thursday, April 25, five Memorial students hurriedly made their way to the Dane County Regional Airport as they began their five-day, all-expense paid trip to Washington, D.C. as part of the National Science Bowl competition. Seniors Srikar Adibhatla, Sohil Shah, Thejas Wesley, and William Xiang, with sophomore Brian Luo, won the privilege of competing at Nationals by winning the Wisconsin Regional Science Bowl earlier this year. They were joined by coach Sowmya Partha and Mr. O’Shaughnessy. 68 high schools and 46 middle schools convened at the 4-H Youth Convention Center in Chevy Chase, MD for the competitions. The U.S. Department of Energy, which sponsors the competition, funded everything.
Thursday was mostly settling in, but the DOE did arrange for teams to take a night tour of the monuments. Memorial saw the World War II, Vietnam War, and Korean War Memorials, the Lincoln Memorial, the Washington Memorial, and the Einstein Memorial. The team tried to shoot the weather at the Lincoln Memorial with Mr. O, but apparently Spartan News deemed it too dark for use.
Friday brought with it the Divisional Team Challenge, which is merely a tiebreaker in the event of an intra-divisional tie. Memorial, in the Bromery Division (named after the influential African American geologist who overcame 20th century racism), took ninth in their DTC. Out of nine teams. But optics, the topic of the challenge, happens to probably be the team’s weakest subject, so it doesn’t count. It didn’t affect the final placing, anyway. Nobel Laureate William Phillips also gave a talk on super-cooled substances before the DTC.
Saturday was pretty much a free day to roam the National Mall. Memorial saw the White House (and shot the weather there), the Capitol Building, and the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum. There was some guilt cramming for the next day’s competition, but it was exceeded by procrastination and fun. Sunday was the competition: a full day of eight 20-minute head-to-head matches with teams in the Bromery division. The day started out well, with Memorial handily beating Palo Alto from California, but the day went downhill from there. The team would go on to lose six matches, and win a total of two. Despite what that record implies, however, most of the losses were extremely close or results of bad luck. For example, their loss against the Science Academy of South Texas came in the very last question. Being eliminated after the round robin portion of the competition, Memorial spent the rest of their Sunday playing basketball against remarkably good middle schoolers and also some sand volleyball with Puerto Ricans and North Dakotans.
In the final round on Monday morning, California high school Mira Loma won the National Title, with North Carolina School of Science and Mathematics taking second. After capping off a week of obscene amounts of frighteningly unhealthy food with a delicious catered lunch, Memorial headed to Reagan National for their flight home. Overall, the team is happy with how they did, considering it was their first time, that it was so much fun, and that they got so much free stuff. Hopefully, Memorial will send another team to Nationals next year that can perform better, but for now, these five students are proud to have been Memorial’s first representatives at the National Science Bowl.
By Thejas Wesley