A Present . . . And A Future

Thousands of middle- and high-school students across the country are headed for a slightly unusual holiday season. Instead of hitting the mall, they'll be hitting the books. And instead of trying to figure out which movie to see, they'll instead be trying to remember answers to questions such as:

  1. What Greek letter is used to symbolize wavelength?
  2. What is the most abundant element in the universe? And....
  3. What is the only amino acid that is not optically active?
    (Answers are at the bottom of the post)

The reason is that those students are after a ‘present' and a future. The present, which they'll have to win, is a fully-paid trip to Washington D.C. at the end of April. That's the prize for winning the regional competitions of the Department of Energy's National Science Bowl, an annual event managed by the DOE's Office of Science.

Starting in January, about 9,000 high school students on some 1,850 teams are expected to compete in 69 high school regional competitions of the 2013 National Science Bowl, which will be held in 43 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands. Another 5,000 middle school students on about 1,100 teams are also expected to participate in 49 regional competitions in 33 states, Puerto Rico and the District of Columbia. The competitions will conclude at the end of March and culminate in the National Finals in Washington D.C., scheduled for April 25-29, 2013.

During the competitions, teams of four students will face-off against one another in a fast-paced, Jeopardy-style format. They'll be challenged to solve mathematical problems and tested on their knowledge of a wide range of disciplines including astronomy, biology, earth science and physics.

Click to enlarge photo. Enlarge Photo

Four students at the National Science Bowl

The North Hollywood Team, Los Angeles, CA competing at the U.S Department of Energy National Science Bowl in Washington, DC on April 30, 2012.

Improving students' knowledge is one reason that DOE sponsors this, one of the nation's largest science competitions. But the larger goal of the National Science Bowl is to inspire the nation's future leaders in science and technology: To get them interested, to see them rewarded, and to start them on the way to building a better and brighter future.

More than 200,000 students have already participated in this annual event, now headed for its 23rd year. They've become scientists and teachers, engineers and leaders. And they've encouraged other students to step up to the Science Bowl challenge too, to take up a new holiday tradition of opening their presents . . . and then opening their books.

In a real sense, all the students who participate in the Science Bowl – and team registrations are still open – are getting themselves a great present. Even if they don't win a trip to the Finals in D.C., the students are increasing their aptitudes and abilities in areas that will make them valuable in the highly competitive global marketplace. They're giving themselves a present – and a future – and that's one of the greatest gifts of all.

The Department'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. For more information please visit http://science.energy.gov/about. For more information about the National Science Bowl, please go to http://science.energy.gov/wdts/nsb/.

Charles Rousseaux is a Senior Writer in the Office of Science.

Answers: (1) Lambda (2) Hydrogen and (3) Glycine. For a full list of the high school practice questions – be forewarned that humility awaits – go to http://science.energy.gov/wdts/nsb/high-school/high-school-regionals/hs-rules-forms-resources/sample-science-bowl-questions.