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West Windsor-Plainsboro South High School & William Annin Middle School win N.J. Regional Science Bowl at PPPL

Top science whizzes will go to national contest in Washington, D.C.

The West Windsor-Plainsboro South High School Science Bowl team is going to Washington, DC, for the second consecutive year after emerging undefeated in 12 rounds of challenging science and mathematics questions at the New Jersey Regional Science Bowl at the U.S. Department of Energy’s Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory (PPPL) on Feb. 20. 

The team defeated the Millburn High School Team in the final contest to win the Science Bowl. Millburn High School came in second, while Princeton High School came in third. 

“I’m really in shock! It hasn’t hit me yet that we’re going to nationals,” said Jamie You, a senior on the West Windsor-Plainsboro team.

William Annin Middle School in Basking Ridge, New Jersey, won the Middle School Science Bowl on Feb. 19 in which 16 middle school teams from the area competed. Princeton Charter School placed second and John Witherspoon Middle School in Princeton was third.

The winning teams will get an all-expenses paid trip to the U.S. Department of Energy’s National Science Bowl® (NSB) April 28 to May 2 in Washington, DC. They will compete with 69 other high school and 49 other middle school regional teams.  DOE’s Office of Science manages the NSB, and sponsors the Finals competition. More information is available on the NSB website: http://www.science.energy.gov/wdts/nsb/.

The contest brought 32 high school teams to PPPL from as far away as Brooklyn and Wilmington, Delaware, to compete in the Science Bowl. The team members consult with each other and hit a flashing red buzzer when they have the answer to one of up to 25 questions in general science, earth science, physical science, math and technology. They play up to 13 rounds in the high school contest and 11 rounds in the middle school contest in a double elimination format.

Deedee Ortiz, the program administrator of PPPL’s Science Education Department, who organizes the event, said the competitors make the event a success. “They come in excited, focused and ready to win,” she said. “They keep that great energy buzzing and I think that we all feed off of that energy and enjoy the day as much as they do.”

“I have to tell you how amazing it is to see 16 teams come from all over the state to compete,” said Andrew Zwicker, head of Science Education at PPPL. “I’m so proud of every team.”

William Annin Team Captain Kaivalya Hariharan said he was happy the hard work of practicing several hours a week since August paid off. “It’s amazing,” he said. “We’ll put some more work into it and maybe we’ll win!”

About 50 PPPL volunteers served as moderators, science judges, and timekeepers during the two days of competition.

One of the most exciting moments of the contest came early in the day in Round 4 in a match between Princeton High School and Highland Park. With one more bonus question to go for Highland Park and zero seconds left, the score was 102 Princeton to 94 Highland Park. But the Highland Park team answered the question correctly and pulled ahead to win the round 104 to 102. “That was intense!” said Nicholas Heuh, one of the members of the Highland Park team. Princeton later defeated Highland Park and went on to the 11th round of the contest.

Rea Rustagi, a 10th grader at Somerset County Vocational School in Bridgewater, was  among the high school contestants. She is auditioning for TV’s “Jeopardy” for a segment of “Teen Jeopardy” next month after making it through an online quiz. “These questions are way harder,” Rustagi said. “I was nervous in the beginning and then as time went on I was having fun. If you take yourself too seriously you’re not going to enjoy the experience.”

PPPL, on Princeton University's Forrestal Campus in Plainsboro, N.J., is devoted to creating new knowledge about the physics of plasmas — ultra-hot, charged gases — and to developing practical solutions for the creation of fusion energy. Results of PPPL research have ranged from a portable nuclear materials detector for anti-terrorist use to universally employed computer codes for analyzing and predicting the outcome of fusion experiments. The Laboratory is managed by the University for the U.S. Department of Energy’s Office of Science, which is the largest single supporter of basic research in the physical sciences in the United States, and is working to address some of the most pressing challenges of our time. For more information, please visit science.energy.gov.

U.S. Department of Energy
Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory is a U.S. Department of Energy national laboratory managed by Princeton University.

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