By Lisa Capobianco
Kennedy Middle School in Southington is one of over a dozen other schools in the state facing off in the National Science Bowl regional this weekend.
A team of four students from Kennedy will compete on Saturday, Feb. 22 at the University of Connecticut, in Storrs, answering a variety of questions in all areas of science and mathematics. If declared the winner, the team will compete in the U.S. Department of Energy Office of Science’s National Science Bowl, which will take place in Washington D.C. this April.
Created in 1991, the nationwide academic competition features a fast-paced question and answer format, testing students on biology, earth science, chemistry, math and physics. The winner of the national competition will win prizes for the team members and their schools.
Kennedy participated in the regional National Science Bowl last year for the first time, and came in fourth place, competing against over 20 other schools in Connecticut.
“I have high hopes,” said Katie Soltys, a science teacher who coaches the team members. “I just want them to have a fun time while learning science and math—I hope they learn to work together as a team and help each other out.”
Currently, the Science Bowl team has practiced for the regional competition once a week for an hour, answering sample questions with a timed buzzer system. They have also participated in a scrimmage against science teachers as well as two other schools, answering questions such as, “What is the name of the rock that makes up most of the ocean floor and volcanic ocean islands?” (The answer is basalt).
“They’re really excited,” Soltys said. “Plus the scrimmage has helped them feel more prepared for it.”
Soltys held an audition before selecting a group of students to participate in the regional competition. About 30 students auditioned, but the ones who answered the majority amount of questions correctly. Eighth graders Amisha Paul and Adam Gwara were two of the four teammates selected to compete regionally.
“I’m nervous and excited because we got fourth place last year—you never know how hard the questions are going to be there,” said Paul, adding that she plans on pursuing a career in the medical field.
“It’s a little scary cause this is the first year I’ve been in it,” added Gwara, who is thinking about pursing a career in chemical engineering. “But I’m really excited for it.”
The Office of Science reported in a press release that between now and March, 5,000 middle school students on more than a thousand teams will participate in regional competitions in 36 states and the District of Columbia. Regional winners will compete in the National Finals, scheduled for April 24 through April 28 in D.C. Sponsored by the Department of Energy, the competition encourages the development of future leaders in science and technology and also trains the next generation of engineers and scientists, according to the release.
Soltys said students will answer more challenging questions as time progresses during the regional competition. Although Soltys plays the role of team coach, students must work together independently without her help while answering questions on-the-spot during the competition itself.
“The students have to be very independent and take responsibility if something is wrong,” Soltys said.