University High clinches Science Bowl title

Competition held on iconic Jet Propulsion Laboratory campus

For the second year in a row, a team of University High School students snagged first place in the regional round of the National Science Bowl, beating out 23 other Southern California teams.

Anton Ni, Maggie Zhang, Nyle Wong, Michael Diao and Jerry Li are now headed to the finals, which will be held in Washington, D.C., next month.

“Everybody on the team has put in countless hours each week studying outside of class,” said team captain Ni. “And we all worked well together.”

David Knight, Science Bowl coach and science department chair at University High School, said he is proud of his team.

“Knowing how hard the students work, I am happy that they have seen it pay off,” he said. “Science Bowl is not just about knowing the most science.”

The competition is set up like the TV game show “Jeopardy.”

“Students have to be quick with the buzzers, but accurate as well,”

Knight said. “If you are fast but miss a question, it can really change the outcome of a game.”

Categories include chemistry, biology, physics, mathematics, astronomy and computer science.

“Personally, I was happy we swept the other teams (at regionals) because it becomes increasingly difficult with the mental fatigue and nerves,” Knight said.

He isn’t exaggerating. Here’s a sample question:

“How many kilojoules of thermal energy, rounded to the first decimal place, must be lost from a 250-gram block of Teflon with a specific heat of 1 kilojoule per kilogram Kelvin, to lower the block’s temperature from 125 degrees Celsius to 75 degrees Celsius?”

How’s that for mental fatigue?

And the students are not permitted to consult calculators, notes, books or the internet.

The University High team is undefeated, by the way, and experienced when it comes to high-stakes competition. Three of the five students were on last year’s team, which took fifth place at nationals.

“After winning the region last year and going to nationals and then placing fifth in the nation, the group was even more determined to repeat this year,” Knight said. “The region in which we compete is highly competitive. This year our team really dominated.”