Team of students brings home the national title
Seniors Eric Lu and Arnold Mong, juniors Jamie Vinson and Alex Miao and sophomore Elliot Kienzle won the US Department of Energy National Science Bowl on May 2 at the National 4-H Youth Conference Center. The last time Blair won the national competition was in 1999. The team reached the top five in 2004 and in 2011, when Blair placed fourth and second place, respectively.
According to team sponsor and Blair chemistry teacher Tran Pham, the Blazers were one of 70 high schools nationwide that had each won their respective regional competition in March. Blair began the national competition with a round robin tournament. Nine teams faced each other at the same time and the top two teams from each round robin went on to compete in a 16-team double elimination bracket for the national title. Blair went 8-1 in the round robin but then went undefeated in the knockout round.
Each match had 10 minute halves in which contestants had to quickly buzz in to answer toss-up questions before the other team and without conferring with their own teammates. The questions included details from all areas of science as well as math and computer science. "A player buzzes in and if he/she gets the question right, the team gets 4 points and will receive a bonus question," Miao said. On the bonus questions, the team can confer before the captain gives the answer.
The teams that placed in the top 16 were given $1,000 for their school, but as the winner, the team from Blair was also awarded a nine-day, all-expenses-paid trip to Alaska this summer. Though the details have not yet been fully determined, the team is looking forward to the trip. "I am pretty excited; it looks like it's going to be a lot of fun,” Vinson said.
Looking to the future, Miao has high hopes for next year's team because only Mong and Lu have graduated. "Two seniors are leaving: Arnold, who did physics and energy, and Eric, who did math and earth and space science,” Miao said. The team will need only replacements in those subjects come fall.
The replacements will be chosen through a series of online tryouts that will occur early next school year. "Top scorers on the online tryout will move on to the buzzer tryout,” Miao said. "There are three teams: A, B, and C. C team is exclusively for freshmen, and there is a tradition of allowing seniors to try out for only A team, although this may change."
Because Blair's team won, Secretary of State John Kerry visited Blair to deliver a message on the state of the oceans.
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