Van Antwerp Middle School’s science team finished in the top eight in the country at the National Science Bowl held over the weekend in Washington, D.C.
“We’re just thrilled,” said coach Connie Soron by telephone. “The competition is absolutely intense. To score in the top eight is quite an accomplishment.”
The students finished tied for seventh place in a field of 37 middle schools. Teams face off against each other in a Jeopardy!-style quiz that tests knowledge of biology, chemistry, earth science, physics, astronomy and math. Each finalist school receives $1,000 for their respective science department.
The team qualified for nationals by placing at regionals on March 6.
The Niskayuna students placed first in their division in the initial pool play and then survived three rounds in the double elimination format. Soron said she was proud of the team’s sportsmanlike attitude.
“They were graceful winners and even more graceful losers when they were eliminated. It was handshakes and good luck to the winning team.”
The students also had to construct a solar-powered car. The students had some difficulty when the piece that holds the motor in place broke off just before the first time trial, according to Soron. The team had to miss the first heat while they fixed the car.
Soron credited the students for thinking on their feet.
“What’s so great about this competition is it challenges middle school students to problem solve real-life situations and find a way to accomplish their objective,” she said.
Even though the students’ car had a good time in the second heat, one of the car’s wheels went off the track in the third one.
The team has been practicing since January, spending free periods and after school getting ready for competition.
“I read a lot of books,” said 13-year-old seventh-grader Martin Schreiner.
Eighth-grader Cecilia Holodak, 13, said she learned a lot from the experience.
“I enjoyed being here and meeting people like me that are also interested in science and math,” she said. “I enjoyed being able to meet some adults that are also in careers in math and science.”
The team also includes Andrew Stewart, Aiden Wolfe and Alexander Young.
The two top teams — Gale Ranch Middle School of San Ramon, Calif., and Albuquerque Academy of Albuquerque, N.M., square off for the championship today at the National Building Museum. First Lady Michelle Obama will ask the championship bonus questions and also address the students. Afterward, all eight teams will be honored at an awards ceremony.