Getting bowled under

By Brandon HENSLEY

For football fans, the bowl season may be over. Now it’s academia’s turn.

The National Science Bowl held its regional competition at JPL on Saturday, with Crescenta Valley High School among its participants in a field of 24 high schools from the L.A., Orange and Riverside counties.

“It’s a great opportunity for the students to come and be challenged in an academic competition and test their knowledge in different areas of science,” said Kim Lievense, head of public relations at JPL, and who is the regional coordinator for the competition.

Arcadia High School was the winner, and punched their ticket to Washington, D.C., to compete in the national competition that runs from April 29 through May 4.

The schools were divided into four divisions, with the top two teams from each division advancing to double elimination rounds. Each match was divided into two eight-minute halves, with each school having to answer toss-up or bonus questions, and the first team to hit the buzzer and answer correctly getting the points. The questions ranged from any area in science, be it chemistry, biology or physics.

CV, whose students included captain Yoon Lee, Varun Bhadha, Chris Cha and Sam Kim, participated through the Crescenta Valley Science and Medicine Academy. It had been 10 years since the Falcons had been in the competition. Perhaps inexperience played a role; CV was eliminated quickly, their lone victory in five matches coming against Wilson Classical.

“It was fun. It was kind of cool being the first ones, we’re like the pioneers,” said Bhadha.

So why re-enter the competition after a decade-long layoff? CV coach Orenda Tuason, a teacher in the Science and Medicine Academy, said Lee e-mailed her last summer notifying her of the competition, and suggested the academy pay the registration fee and Tuason come on board as coach, and so it began.

The academy features some of CV’s best and brightest minds. According to its website, the academy “is a career pathway program offering students the opportunity to explore various careers available in the fields of science and medicine.”

Students in the academy take classes after regular school hours, attend field trips, and do research in whatever field they are interested in.

According to Kim, a chemistry standout interested in cardiology, the team met only once in the last two months to practice due to time constraints, and they didn’t have practice buzzers to use, unlike other schools. Tuason said her students knew a lot of the answers but couldn’t signal in time, thus contributing to their early exit.

“A lot of it is strategy, being able to answer quickly,” she said.

Tuason said she was impressed with her students, though, considering the circumstances, and noted that most of their matches were highly competitive. “I sat there, and I was just like, ‘Wow, these kids are so good,’” she said.

“It was a good experience to see what the top schools are like and what our expectations should be,” Kim said.

To make things better for next year (considering there will be a next year could be a victory in itself), Kim and Bhadha, both juniors, are going to start recruiting earlier for anyone looking to join the academy and the Science Bowl team. They hope the academy will also provide the necessary practice equipment, such as buzzers.

“Now we know what to expect so we want a variety of students with different skills, and then we want to get them ready with the right equipment and get them set up,” Kim said.

So instead of the weekend being about CV losing, the long-term attitude is that this is the start of something bigger.

“I think what we got out of this was the enthusiasm and the motivation to come back stronger next year,” said Tuason.

“We did pretty well for being [first-timers], so it was fun,” said Bhadha.

But they are Science Bowl newbies no more. By next year, the team hopes to not just be armed with brain power, but with more practice time and proper resources. It doesn’t take a genius to see good things are in store for CV.