Two Princeton schools will travel to Washington, D.C., and compete in the National Science Bowl® April 27 to May 1 after winning the New Jersey Regional Science Bowl at the Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory in close contests.
The Princeton International School of Mathematics and Science (PRISMS) won the high school contest on Feb. 25 in a final round versus High Technology High School. Princeton High School came in third.
Organizer Deedee Ortiz, science education program manager, said it was great to have the science bowl in person after a two-year hiatus in which contestants answered questions individually online rather than the in-person, head-to-head, double-elimination contest. “It was great having people back,” she said. “The kids are much more enthusiastic since they’ve been away for so long!”
The New Jersey Regional Science Bowl is just one of many science education events and programs hosted by PPPL’s Science Education Department. Others include the Ronald E. Hatcher Science On Saturday Lecture Series, which is running through March 18, and the upcoming Young Women’s Conference in STEM, which will be held March 16 at Princeton University for seventh to tenth graders.
Sixteen teams competed in the middle school contest, and 32 teams competed in the high school contest. They answered challenging questions in science and math. The math-related questions often required lightning-quick calculations. And while the competition was fierce, the PRISMS team found a way to keep things lighthearted. When Justin Feder and his teammate Josh Shi disagreed, they decided the final answer by playing rock, paper, scissors.
Justin Feder, the captain of the PRISMS team, said his team planned a four-day rest before resuming practices for the national contest. “I’m very tired but excited,” he said. “It was a very tough contest. I was expecting a few teams of this caliber, but I feel every team was excellent.”
Feder will be going to Washington, D.C., for the fourth time after winning previous contests as a Princeton Charter School student. At times, the high school contest seemed like a Princeton Charter School reunion, with members of both the PRISMS team and the Princeton High School team going to the final rounds and competing against each other.
A fifth win for Princeton Charter School
Princeton Charter School’s win against the Bridgewater-Raritan Regional Middle School team in the final round was the school’s fifth win at the New Jersey contest. Bridgewater-Raritan came in second, and the John Adams Middle School of Edison Township won third place. The Lawrence Middle School received the school spirit award.
The Princeton Charter School team included twins Audrey and Amelia Huang; Amelia is the captain of the team. “I’m a little nervous,” she said as they went into the final rounds. Amelia said she enjoyed learning about new topics to prepare for the contest. “Participating in the Science Bowl has taught me a lot,” she said. “I think it’s fun to learn information that I can use later.”
While the New Jersey Regional Science Bowl is primarily organized by the Science Education Department, it takes many Lab volunteers to execute the two-day event. There were 21 volunteers for the middle school event and 27 PPPL volunteers for the high school event. Among the latter was Director Steve Cowley, who was the science moderator for the last round. “It’s just really fun,” he said. “These are extremely smart kids. It’s a great event!”
PPPL volunteer Priya Durairaj, a database administrator at the Lab, said she was impressed by the students. “Just watching these kids –– they’re amazing,” she said. “And the competition is so intense. There are so many rules, and they’re so focused when they answer the questions. It’s a wonderful event!”
“We were so happy to host the Science Bowl for the 31st year this year,” Dominguez said. “It’s great seeing young people from communities throughout New Jersey testing their STEM knowledge. We’re also very grateful to our PPPL volunteers for making this event a success.”
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 single largest 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, visit https://energy.gov/science