University High School won a regional round of the U.S. Department of Energy National Science Bowl for a second straight year on Jan. 26.
Seniors Michael Diao, Anton Ni, Maggie Zhang and Jerry Li and junior Nyle Wong went undefeated and took first place among 24 teams from around Greater Los Angeles. The Jeopardy-style competition was held at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena for the 27th year.
“I was incredibly happy for the team and proud of what they have accomplished,” said David Knight, Science Bowl coach and science department chair at University High. “Each team member has worked so hard the past few years … and they have been even more motivated since winning last year.”
“It is difficult to win back to back because the competition in our region is so good,” he added. “Any of the top three or four schools at the competition would have represented Southern California well at the national competition.”
University High has three students returning from last year’s team, which placed fifth at the national competition.
“Other schools were definitely gunning for us,” Knight said.
In Science Bowl, teams are asked questions on math, physics, Earth and space, chemistry, biology and energy during 16-minute long rounds. They aren’t allowed to use calculators, books, notes or the internet.
“One of the biggest pressures is deciding when to buzz in," Diao said. "If you buzz in before the question is done and you get it wrong, the other team gets points, but you also want to buzz in before the other team does. So deciding how certain you are of your answer and acting fast is really hard.”
University High will compete in the national tournament in Washington D.C. in April.
“Not just these students, but many at UNI, want to learn high-level science beyond a standard curriculum,” Knight said. “They are capable of comprehending college-level science, excelling academically and having fun like any other high school student.”