Science Bowl Whiz Kids
The Los Angeles Regional Science Bowl, now in its 20th year of existence, attracts some of Southern California’s brightest high school students. Thirty Los Angeles area high schools competed in this year’s edition of the math and science completion but as usual, one team stood out above the rest.
North Hollywood High won all 11 of its matches at the 2012 Los Angeles Regional Science Bowl and will compete in the national finals in Washington D.C. for the seventh straight year. They have now won 14 of the last 15 Los Angeles-area competitions and won a national championship in 2001.
North Hollywood often wins it matches by such lopsided scores that the experience can be almost painful for all involved.
“There are definitely some teams where it’s, ‘Well I feel bad about [winning by such a large margin] because it’s sort of sad,” said Danny Bork, a senior on North Hollywood’s team.
The Science Bowl tests both knowledge and reaction time. Players accumulate points by buzzing in first and answering questions during two eight-minute halves of play.
“I guess what I really like about it is the fact that you get to buzz,” said Rain Tsong, a senior and captain of North Hollywood’s team. “It’s not just like taking a test. You’re actively playing as the round progresses.”
The team’s success makes many wonder: What is it about North Hollywood that sets them apart?
First, the students are obviously very smart. Most of the team’s players come from North Hollywood’s Highly Gifted Magnet (HGM) program, which admits only about 75 students each year from around the Los Angeles Unified School District, all of whom have IQs greater than 145.
“The idea of competing gives them something else to do in school, which tends to be for most of their classes, real easy for them,” said Leonard Soloff, a volunteer coach of the team and former North Hollywood High teacher.
The team also practices three times a week for most of the year. The students read textbooks outside of class and practice their reaction times with the buzzers.
“You can know all of the science in the world and you can be an extraordinary test taker and you can be a bad Science Bowl player,” said Vivek Banerjee, a North Hollywood High senior headed to Harvard next year. “It’s hard to know no science and be a good Science Bowl player but it’s definitely a game.”
It’s a game North Hollywood has down to a science.