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A battle of the brains between local rivals at N.J. Regional Science Bowl

As the final competitions took place at the Olympics in South Korea, a battle of the brains was taking place at the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory (PPPL) on Feb. 23 and 24 where two local teams won the New Jersey Regional Science Bowl and the chance to compete in the national contest in Washington D.C. 

“Who knew this could be so exciting!” said Andrew Zwicker, head of Communications and Public Outreach and Science Education, at the conclusion of the middle school contest. “To see how much you know and how you figure things out when you start talking together and watch how you collaborate is really remarkable. We expect you to come back here and help us with fusion when you are done with school.” 

In the high school contest, the two finalists were two high schools from the same school district, West Windsor-Plainsboro South, the reigning champions for the past three years, and West Windsor-Plainsboro North. The two teams went to a 13th round and were tied with less than a minute left, when West Windsor-Plainsboro North won four points to win 86 to 82. The Ridge High School team from Basking Ridge, New Jersey, won third place.

The middle school contest also came down to a close  match between two Princeton teams: the John Witherspoon Middle School, last year’s winners, and the Princeton Charter School team, which came in second last year. The two teams played two final rounds with Princeton Charter narrowly defeating John Witherspoon in the first round 106 to 104, and 96 to 54 in the final round. William Annin Middle School, of Basking Ridge, won third place. 

The winning teams receive an all-expense paid trip to Washington, D.C. where they will compete in the finals of this year’s National Science Bowl®, held April 26 to 30. The middle school winner will compete against 48 other regional teams, while the high school champion will compete against 64 other teams. The U.S. Department of Energy Office of Science manages the National Science Bowl®, and sponsors the NSB finals competition.  

“This is great! It’s been a long haul,” said Mark Schlawin, the Princeton Charter School coach. “We came in second two years in a row now. This time we managed the victory.” 

This was the 25th year PPPL has hosted the Science Bowl., in which teams come from all over New Jersey and the region to compete. The State College Area High School from State College, Pennsylvania, traveled four hours to get to the contest. “The kids did great,” said Coach Susan Braun. “It was a lot of fun.” 

Deedee Ortiz, the PPPL organizer of the event, noted that 50 PPPL volunteers come in on Saturday to work as moderators, judges and scorekeepers. “This event would never be possible without our amazing volunteers,” she said. 

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. 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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