A team of four exceptional Huntington High School students captured the Long Island regional Science Bowl championship last Saturday at Brookhaven National Lab in Upton. The team will now advance to the national finals in Washington, DC in April.
The Huntington squad included team captain Brian Gilbert and members Aron Coraor, Marc Feldman and Jacob Roday. Teachers Dame Forbes and Lori Kenny coached the group. Junior Brian McConnell also practiced with the team, but was unable to participate in last weekend’s contest.
The competition consisted of a fast-paced question-and-answer tournament designed to test participant’s knowledge in biology, chemistry, Earth and space science, energy, mathematics and physics.
“Every year we feel like we have ‘the team,’ but we just haven’t found the spark to push into round two,” Mrs. Kenny said. “This year we had a unique team that truly found fun in the contest as they laughed with one another over the different question sets. One of the organizers told me it was a joy to see how much fun our kids were having. I could barely watch the clock in each round, as the second hand seemed to hardly move as we progressed further into the tournament. From being secluded with the team and waiting to get into round two until the very last question in the final game, Mrs. Forbes and I held onto the hope that this team could experience the joy of winning and it did.”
Huntington moved through a series of grueling rounds, including a tie-breaker with perennial powerhouse Ward Melville before topping Great Neck South in the finals to win the regional crown and earn a berth in the national championships in the nation’s capital on April 25-29.
“This is so Amazing”
“This is so amazing,” Mrs. Forbes said. “We worked with the kids and I knew they had a chance at winning, but to see it brought to fruition is pure delight. When I realized that we had done it, Mrs. Kenny and I just looked at each other. This is real. For the first time Huntington has a regional Science Bowl title.”
The competition, which involved about 100 remarkable students, played out over nearly eight hours in Berkner Hall on the Brookhaven National Lab campus. In addition to Huntington, the competing high schools included Bellport, Commack, Comsewogue, Copiague, Levittown Division, Levittown MacArthur, Farmingdale, Garden City, Great Neck South, Harborfields, Kings Park, Mount Sinai, North Shore, Rocky Point, South Side, Townsend Harris-Flushing, Wantagh, Ward Melville and Wheatley.
Sponsored by the US Department of Energy’s Office of Science, the Science Bowl encourages students to excel in science and math and pursue careers in those fields. About 9,500 high school and 4,500 middle school students are expected to participate in this year’s Science Bowl regional contests.
The competition followed a round-robin format with 20 teams split among four divisions followed by a double-elimination series consisting of each divisional winner with a final tournament late in the day.
Team Pulled Through
“The Science Bowl was really engaging,” Mr. Feldman said. “At several points in the day our run to victory could have ended, but the team pulled through. Teams were generally friendly, but very competitive. Everyone was hoping to come out on top. We prepared as a team after school on Fridays during the weeks leading up to the event. Compared to some teams, we had less preparation, but we stilled pulled out a narrow victory; only decided on the final question of the final round. Our victory could not have happened without our wonderful coaches, Mrs. Forbes and Mrs. Kenny.”
The Long Island regional competition was one of 120 such regional contests being held throughout the country, including Puerto Rico and the US Virgin Island. The competitions began January 19 and will continue through March 9. Since its debut in 1991, more than 225,000 high school students have participated in the Jeopardy-style contest. It’s one of America’s largest science competitions.
The Huntington team members received gold medals and Science Bowl t-shirts and brought home a handsome trophy. The team also won $500 for the science program, courtesy of event sponsor Brookhaven Science Associates.
“I am so proud of the students and my invaluable colleague Mrs. Forbes because it is with this combination that I believe great things will continue to happen in our science community.” Mrs. Kenny said.”
All-Expenses Paid Trip to Finals
Mrs. Forbes said the final result “proved once again that science at Huntington High School is among the best science anywhere.” Huntington will receive a fully-paid trip to Washington, DC for the national finals. The Department of Energy’s Office of Science 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.
The Huntington team’s Friday afternoon practices with Mrs. Forbes and Mrs. Kenny covered both the Science Bowl and the Quiz Bowl. In the days leading up to last weekend’s competition, team members also went through their paces with Huntington alum Jeffrey Sun and junior Catherine Koumas, who both read questions to Messrs. Coraor, Feldman, Gilbert and Roday.
“The day of the competition itself was unbelievable, mainly because we did not expect to come anywhere close to winning,” Mr. Gilbert acknowledged. “We had a bad loss in the first match of the day and did not expect to move on very far. We had a couple of close calls, including making it through a three-way tiebreaker at one point. The final match against Great Neck was so close that I lost track of the score and thought we were going to lose! Aside from the competition itself, the experience was great because we got a first-hand view at the prestigious Brookhaven National Laboratory and we met numerous scientists who work there.”
Long Day for Competitors
It was a long day for the Huntington team, which reported to the Brookhaven National Lab for the 8 a.m. registration. The squad dropped its first match by a lopsided margin to Ward Melville, but rebounded and was nearly unstoppable the rest of the day.
“In a complete surprise, our team, Ward Melville and a third team were tied in our division, resulting in a three-way tiebreaker match,” Mr. Roday said. Following lunch, members of the three teams squared off over five “toss-up” questions.
“We answered two out of the five questions correctly, which to us sounded like we lost,” Mr. Roday said. “Waiting to find out who would advance was the most stressful moment of my life. When we found out we would be competing in the finals, everyone cheered. Huntington had never advanced past the divisional round.”
The four division level champs moved into a double-elimination final round of matches. “Losing our first match did not dishearten us,” Mr. Roday said. “We came back to beat Farmingdale and North Shore. Our last match was against Great Neck South, who managed to destroy us last year in the regional Quiz Bowl championship. Because of the double elimination format, we had to win two matches against them for first place, while they only had to beat us once. The first match went well, we scored a quick victory. In the second match, we fell behind, but ultimately we won.”
AP Courses Provided Background
While Mr. Coraor regularly attended the Friday afternoon practices with his teammates, he thought “the best preparation for the Science Bowl was simply having background knowledge from prior courses, such as AP Chemistry, Biology, Physics, etc.,” he said. “I personally had taken already AP Chemistry, AP Calculus BC, and Stony Brook University’s PHY 141 (honors physics) over the past two years, in terms of relevant courses. Our team had a good spread of knowledge, and we collectively had experience in all the fields of science addressed in the competition.”
Although being put on the spot by some tough questions can be extremely stressful, the Huntington contingent kept its collective cool. “The actual competition was pretty fun,”
Mr. Coraor said. “The whole day went by very quickly and every match was very suspense-filled, each taking only 18 minutes to conclude! Our team worked very well together, each member being reliable in their own areas of expertise and overall we had quite a bit of fun, even if individually we each only knew about 15-25 percent of the questions asked. Of course, there were many proud moments, like when we found out we beat Ward Melville in the tiebreaker for division and when we beat Great Neck South the second time to win the regionals. I would recommend to anyone with an interest in the sciences that they join the team next year. We’ve already won once and we can do it again.”
An Amazing Experience
“My experience Saturday was amazing,” Mr. Roday said. “It was easily the most fun I’ve had my senior year. Competing in Science Bowl may be stressful and nerve-wracking, but in the end it’s really just about the fun. Our amazing coaches Mrs. Kenny and Mrs. Forbes are my two favorite teachers here at Huntington. The devotion they show to their students and to science is incredible. The amount of Advanced Placement science courses here at Huntington massively helped us as we have all taken APs in science.”
The Huntington team will now begin its training for the national event, which will include several days of hands-on science activities and grueling competitions, as well as sightseeing and cutting-edge science seminars. “We are all obviously very excited to go to Washington, DC for the national competition,” Mr. Gilbert said.