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May 17, 2011 > The National Science Bowl experience

The National Science Bowl experience

Submitted By Hemang Jangle
Photos By Aileen Ho

Editor's Note: In May, Fremont's Hopkins Junior High School placed third at the National Science Bowl Competition held in Washington D.C. The goal of this educational tournament is to place a national focus on the importance on science.

The team's coach, Dr. Paul Ricks, explained that in October, 91 students at Hopkins Jr. High had tried out for spots on the school's Science Bowl team. After students were selected, team members spent a minimum of eight hours per week studying and practicing all aspects related to science.

All of this hard work is evident as Hopkins Jr. High has an exceptional record of success in Science Bowl; as regional winners in 2008, 2009, 2010, and 2011. Overall, at Nationals, the Hopkins team has earned 2nd place in 2008, 1st place in 2009, 3rd place in 2010 and again 3rd place in 2011.

In his own words Hopkin's team member, Hemang Jangle describes the National Science Bowl experience:

"I am Hemang Jangle, the team's captain, and the other members of the team include: Alvin Hsu, Alvin Kao, Kyle Liang, and Brian Mi. Our coach is Dr. Ricks, and we represent Hopkins Junior High. Recently, we competed at the National Science Bowl in Washington D.C., sponsored by the U.S. Department of Energy.

"In the beginning of the year, we began practicing and studying for Science Bowl, after our school held tryouts for the team. To make it to the national competition, we would first have to win the regional competition, which was held in February. After long hours of studying and practice matches, our diligence paid off, as we won the regional competition without a single loss. Now, our studies intensified. Because our school has been placing in the top three for the past several years, we knew that winning nationals would be a real challenge. Again, we went into study mode for a few months and focused on our team's weak areas.

"Meanwhile, we had the responsibility of building a hydrogen fuel cell car. Although the regional competition only included the academic (buzzer format) competition, the national competition would involve a car race, too. Building the car was a very enriching experience, and after a lot of troubleshooting and working with it, we finally achieved a decent time.

"Taking a red-eye flight to [Washington] D.C., we arrived at nationals half awake, hitting the hay for a nap as soon as we reached the dorm room. Luckily for us, the first two days we toured D.C. and socialized with other teams, for the most part. Once the academic competition began, it was a bit intimidating as our division had very strong teams, with four of the seven finishing in the top five last year. The first round was a grudge match against a school from San Ramon, Gale Ranch Middle School, to whom we lost last year and we were seeking revenge.

"Unfortunately, our team could not succeed and came out with a loss in the first round. It was a bit unsettling, but we pulled it together to beat the defending champions in the second round and won three more after that. The last match of the round robin was close, but we lost in the end. This meant that we would have to compete in a tiebreaker with five other teams to ensure a spot in the double elimination part.

"Since the tiebreaker took some time to set up, our nerves were roaring lions sequestered in a cage. In the matches, we could channel them into energy and focus, but in between matches nerves amounted to torture. In the end, our team pulled through all the scientific and "nervous" challenges and made it onto the double elimination rounds. We breezed through the first two rounds, only to find ourselves face to face with Gale Ranch again. Again, we failed to get past them and now had only one life left.

"It was now that the do-or-die sense kicked in. We were in the top 10 for sure, but a single mistake would be pounced upon by the strong opposition we would face from now on. The next few matches were close, heated battles in which many risky decisions had to be made, and some matches even came down the last second, or the last question. After winning a few games, we found ourselves in the semifinals; the winner of the match would be the one to challenge Gale Ranch in the finals.

"The match went to the final question, but we could not win the match. Our opposition, Shahala Middle School from Washington, went on to compete in the finals. We were all disappointed and sad that we did not make the finals. Personally, I was especially disappointed, for I was on the team the previous year too, and I wanted to improve on the third place we received then. Fortunately, we weren't allowed to dote on our depressing thoughts for long. Our team was required to present the design document we prepared in conjunction with the car. With that, we ended our day of the academic competition.

"The next day, the hydrogen fuel cell car race was held but our car would not run at optimum speed, and we did not qualify for the double elimination heats. After that, we watched the rest of the race, the finals and award ceremony the next day, and came back home. All in all, it was a great experience, and we had a lot of fun throughout the whole event, whether in the heat of battle, or making adjustments to the car. Now, my goal is to return to nationals next year and not get third place, but the championship."

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