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Jan. 28, 2013

Rockville upsets Blair in Md. Regional Science Bowl

by Saaraa Farooq, Online News Editor
Three Blair teams competed in the Maryland Regional Science Bowl on Jan. 19 at Montgomery College. Teams A and B placed second and third respectively, losing to a team from Rockville High School. The competition comprised 45 teams from 25 schools in the region. Rockville will advance to Nationals, beginning April 25 in Washington D.C.

Rockville High School placed first in the Maryland regional competition of the National Science Bowl, handing Blair its first loss in five years. Courtesy of the National Science Bowl
Rockville High School placed first in the Maryland regional competition of the National Science Bowl, handing Blair its first loss in five years.
Team A captain and Blair junior Avikar Periwal was surprised that Blair did not win this year, after MBHS won the regional competition and placed in the top eight teams in the National Science Bowl in 2012. "This is the first time we haven't won in five years," Periwal said. "We got too tired, frazzled [and] had a couple of inopportune mistakes."

Blair's Team A consisted of Periwal, senior Diwakaran "Viju" Ilangovan, junior Alan Du and seniors Jason Hyun and Samuel Zbarsky. Team B consisted of sophomores Matthew Das Sarma (captain), Mike Winer and Cathy Xue and juniors Alex Bourzutschky and Saurav Das. Team C consisted of freshmen Eric Lu (captain), Alex Brassel, Arnold Mong, Matthew Yu and Raymond Lin.

Read More: Intel Science Talent Search names Blair finalist and semifinalists

Ilangovan pointed out that Blair suffered from an unlucky tournament bracket. "Blair did very well throughout the competition, with all three teams making it to the second round. Unfortunately, Blair A and C were in the same bracket and C was eliminated. In the semifinals, Blair A played Blair B while La Plata played Rockville High School. In the finals, Blair A played La Plata and barely lost [by a] one question margin," Ilangovan said.

In the regional round, the teams were split up into eight random groups. All teams played a round robin within each bracket and the top two teams moved on to the second round. In the second round, the teams were split into four divisions and another round robin was played. The top team in each division was selected and a single elimination bracket was held among the four remaining teams to determine the winners.

"We got unlucky in the final round, or rather the other team got quite lucky." - Ilongovan
To prepare for the competition, Blazers studied individually and practiced answering questions as a team. "We mostly just tried to emulate the competition setting as much as possible, splitting up into fair teams and playing just like in the real competition," Ilangovan said.

The team practiced with buzzers in practice facilities. The team's coach, Magnet chemistry and thermodynamics teacher Tran Pham, provided them with advice for the competition. Pham has coached the Blair Science Bowl teams for over 15 years, providing them with resources and practice space.

Ilangovan believed there could have been improvements made to the team. "This year our team was very well balanced - no one member dragged the team down. However we lacked a strong earth science member, which may have contributed to our loss," he said.

He felt that even though Blair lost this year, the team worked hard and still did well. "While we did not go to the national round for the first time in about five years this time, our team was just as strong as ever. We got unlucky in the final round, or rather the other team got quite lucky, and as a result we lost," he said.

The National Science Bowl was created by the U.S. Department of Energy in 1991 to encourage students to excel in mathematics and science and to pursue careers in these fields. It is the nationís largest science competition, with more than 200,000 students participating in its 23-year history.

For more information about the National Science Bowl, visit

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  • Alex B. (View Email) on January 28, 2013 at 11:04 PM
    Paragraph 4: "In the finals, Blair A played La Plata and barely lost [by a] one question margin."

    Blair A played Rockville in the finals, not La Plata.

    And for those (like a close friend of mine) who claim that there is no such thing as luck: Rockville's captain twice (!) buzzed in after 2 of the 4 choices (i.e. w and x of w, x, y, and z) and guessed the 3rd (i.e. y). This has a 50-50 chance of rewarding the other team with interrupt points as well as giving away the answer (i.e. z), thus giving the other team points for the question (and a chance for even more in the follow-up bonus) or, if it is correct, awarding the team just points for the question (no interrupt points) and a chance to answer the bonus.
    The captain was correct both times. That he used this strategy indicates that either he had accidentally thought the answer were w or x (i.e. he misheard the question, which is not good) or he was deliberately pushing his luck (because we're that intimidating).

    In any case, apart from the captain, maybe 1 other member managed to buzz in faster than everyone. The two non-contributing members are unlikely to contribute at Nationals either, thus making the team even worse.

    That said, they can hope to be buoyed up by the fact that Maryland has the best education in the US, but I have low hopes for their getting far at Nationals. At least, as Viju astutely pointed out, the captain was good at Earth Science.

    In any case, B Team had an impressive performance, and despite the 3 graduating seniors (as opposed to 1 last year), we have some very strong sophomores. The next two years shall see Blair reconquer its lost ground.

    Further correction: paragraph 1 implies that B Team lost to Rockville. Blair B never played Rockville. Blair B was undefeated until it faced Blair A in the semifinal, where it lost by one question.
    • Devin Chow (View Email) on January 29, 2013 at 6:51 PM
      ^ mhmm sore loser much?

      perhaps the Rockville captain deduced the correct logical answer choice ordering, and made the correct interrupt??

      • Viju on February 9, 2013 at 2:50 PM
        well while I admit that Alex's response seemed a bit bitter - no, that's not true. There was no real logical flow that the captain could have used to guess half way through the choices. I've done it myself, so while I won't criticize the other team for this, it's not really anything to be proud of. It was sheer luck and a single (albeit very) good player that pushed this team to win. Of course, luck is a big part of this competition, and I do wish Rockville the best of luck in the national round.
  • Judy on February 3, 2013 at 2:37 PM
    Alex B. - the classy thing to do would be to wish the Rockville team good luck, since they will be representing MD (your state) whether you like it or not. Instead of analyzing the probability of selecting the best answer choice, how about simply acknowledging that you didn't do well, and looking to see how you can improve for next year? That seems much more rational than whining like a baby.

    Looks like when the going gets tough, the tough get going.
    • Alex B. (View Email) on April 27, 2013 at 5:36 PM
      They will? Then why are they not here:

      I will easily attribute most of the whining to my state at that time.
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