March 2, 2013

Science Bowl tests Maine students' brain cells

Eighty-five students on 17 teams from high schools around the state compete for a trip to Washington.

By Beth Quimby bquimby@pressherald.com
Staff Writer

GORHAM - Question: Five 2.5 mega-ohm resistors are parallel in a circuit. What is their equivalent resistance in mega-ohms?

click image to enlarge

Waynflete students Sally Li and Zander Majercik work out a problem in a semifinal round at the Science Bowl at the University of Southern Maine in Gorham on Saturday.

Gregory Rec/Staff Photographer

Don't feel like a dunderhead if you don't know the answer, never mind what a mega-ohm is. (The answer may be found at the end of this story.)

The question also stumped the best science and math students at Falmouth and Windham high schools Saturday morning at the 13th Maine Regional Science Bowl at the University of Southern Maine.

Eighty-five students on 17 teams from 11 high schools around the state were competing for a trip to Washington, D.C., next month to face off against other states at the National Science Bowl competition.

The free event pitted students against one another in a game show format.

The popular bowl once included all the northern New England states, but organizers had to restrict it to just Maine to keep it manageable.

The bowl is sponsored by the University of Southern Maine, Texas Instruments Corp. and Idexx Corp. The trip to Washington is paid for by the U.S. Department of Energy.

While Maine has never won the national bowl, it once took home the award for best all-around team, said Rob Sanford, the USM professor of environmental sciences who organized the Maine bowl with Bob Kuech, a USM associate professor of teacher education.

This year, some of the volunteer staff of coaches, scorekeepers and judges were former bowl participants who went on to become USM graduates and now teachers in Maine.

Kuech said the bowl requires college-level science and math skills and a nimble game-playing strategy.

Participants said giving up a free Saturday to answer difficult science and math questions was no sacrifice.

"It is fun to test your knowledge," said Kelsey Coyne, 17, a senior at Falmouth High School.

She and her teammates, Alex Han, 17; Tristan Tucker, 17; Zachary Winkeler, 17; and Aaron Peterson-Greenberg, 17, said they wanted to go to Washington.

Friends and family members turned out to cheer the teams on, even if they didn't necessarily understand the questions.

"It's been a while since we have been in high school," said Lisa Caron, who was there with her husband, Paul Caron, to watch their son, Daniel Hanson, 16, a Windham High School sophomore.

The competition was fierce. It grew even more so as the day continued and the weakest teams were winnowed out.

By round four of the six-round competition, Falmouth seniors were doing their best to beat out a Windham High School team made up of all sophomores who were competing for the first time.

The Windham team led in the first half of the round. Falmouth finally tied with Windham in the second round, but didn't pull ahead until they correctly answered a tie-breaker question and didn't clinch the win until they got a bonus question right.

The Windham team graciously conceded.

"Wow, good job," the Windham teammates shouted.

ANSWER: 0.5

Staff Writer Beth Quimby can be contacted at 791-6363 or at:

bquimby@pressherald.com

 

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