Science Bowl

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The Science Bowl is a high school and middle school science knowledge competition held in the United States. Two teams of four or five students each compete to answer various science-related questions. A buzzer system similar to those seen on popular television game shows such as Jeopardy! is used to signal an answer. The National Science Bowl (NSB) has been organized and sponsored by the United States Department of Energy since the competition's inception in 1991.

Subject areas[edit]

During the competition, each question has a category and the high school and middle schools have a different set of categories for their questions. The 2013 high school categories are Chemistry, Biology, Physics, Mathematics, Energy, and Earth and Space Science. The 2013 middle school categories are Physical Science, Life Science, Mathematics, Energy, General Science, and Earth and Space Science.[1]

Several categories have been added, dropped, and merged throughout the years. Computer Science was dropped from the list in late 2002. Current Events was in the 2005 competition, but did not make a return. General Science was dropped for high school. Astronomy was merged with Earth Science to create Earth and Space Science.

Regional competitions[edit]

The winning team of each regional Science Bowl competition is invited to participate in the National Science Bowl all expenses paid. There are a number of regional competitions all over the United States; the exact number changes from year to year. For example, in 2006 there were 65 regionals, while in 2004 there were 64 regionals, and in 2003 there were 66 regionals. These figures count as two separate regionals the few "superregional" sites that are permitted to send two teams to the national competition.

Typically, any high school that meets the eligibility rules of the National Science Bowl competition is permitted to register for any regional competition in the country, but no high school or student group may compete in multiple regionals. In addition, some regional competitions permit schools to register multiple teams.

Rules[edit]

This section is concerned with the rules of the national competition. The rules of regional competitions vary greatly. There are very few prescribed rules for regional competitions. Some regionals are run nearly identically to the national competition, while others use variations of the rules or different methods of scoring.

General rules[edit]

A team consists of four or five students from a single high school. Only four students play at any one time, while the fifth is designated as the alternate. Substitutions may be made at halftime and between rounds.

A blank score display board from the Hypatia division at the 2007 Nationals.

Two teams compete against each other in each match. Each match has at most 25 questions (that is, 25 toss-ups and 25 corresponding bonuses). The match is over when all the toss-up questions have been read (and any bonuses related to correctly answered toss-ups), or after two halves have elapsed, whichever occurs first. The team with the most points at this time is the winner. The half length varies, even throughout the national tournament; this year, halves for the preliminary (round robin) rounds and the first rounds of the playoffs were 10 minutes long, and halves for the final rounds were 12 minutes long (to account for the visual bonuses).

Toss-ups[edit]

Every match begins with a toss-up question. The moderator announces the subject of the question (see "Subject Areas" above), as well as its type (Multiple Choice or Short Answer). Once the moderator completes the reading of the question, students have five seconds to buzz in and give an answer. Students may buzz in at any time after the category has been read—there is no need to wait for the moderator to finish. However, there is a penalty for interrupting the moderator and giving an incorrect answer. Once a student from a team has buzzed in, that team may not buzz in again on that question. Conferring between members of a team is not allowed on toss-up questions; if conferring occurs on a question, the team is disallowed from answering that question. The rules regarding conferring are typically very strict: excessive noise, eye contact, or even noticeable shifts in position can be considered conferring, as they convey information to teammates.

An answer given by a student is ruled correct or incorrect by the moderator. On short answer questions, if the answer given differs from the official one, the moderator uses his or her judgment to make a ruling (which is subject to a challenge by the competitors). On multiple choice questions, the answer given by the student is only correct if it matches the official answer exactly. Alternatively, the student may give the letter choice that corresponds to the correct answer. Although A, B, C, and D were once used as answer choice letters, W, X, Y, and Z are now favored due to a lower chance of confusion.

Bonuses[edit]

If a student answers a toss-up question correctly, that student's team receives a bonus question. The bonus question is always in the same category as the corresponding toss-up question. Since only that team has the opportunity to answer the bonus question, there is no need to buzz in to answer it. After the moderator finishes reading the question, the team has 20 seconds to answer. Conferring between team members is permitted, but the designated team captain must give the team's final answer.

Visual bonuses were introduced in 2003. They are only included in the final elimination rounds. The team has 20 seconds to answer a question with the aid of a visual displayed on a 19-inch monitor (for the third-place and first-place games) or on a distributed worksheet (for earlier playoff games).

The same rules apply to the judging of responses to bonus questions as apply to responses to toss-up questions. Once the team's answer has been ruled right or wrong, the moderator proceeds to the next toss-up question.

If neither team answers the toss-up question correctly, the bonus question is not read, and the moderator proceeds to the next toss-up question.

Scoring[edit]

Correct responses to toss-up questions are worth 4 points each. If a student buzzes in on a toss-up question before the moderator has completely read the question (i.e., interrupts the moderator) and responds incorrectly, 4 points are awarded to the opposing team, and the question is re-read in its entirety so that the opposing team has an opportunity to buzz in.

A correct response on a bonus question earns 10 points, making the total possible score on a single question 18 points (4 for a correct answer, 4 for an incorrect interruption by the other team, and 10 for the bonus), and a perfect score 450 points. Against an opponent who never buzzes in (often the better approximation), the maximum (perfect) score is 350 points. This is assuming that only the regular 25 questions have been answered.

Competition format[edit]

This section is concerned with the format of the national competition only. As is the case with competition rules, the competition format varies greatly among the different regional competitions.

The national competition always consists of two stages: round robin and double elimination.

Round-robin[edit]

All competing teams are randomly arranged into several round-robin groups of eight or nine teams each. Every team plays every other team in its group once, receiving 2 points for a win, 1 point for a tie, or 0 points for a loss. The top two teams from each group advance to the double elimination round.

Tiebreaks[edit]

In the event that two or more teams are tied for one of the top spots in a round robin group, the result of the Division Team Challenge (DTC) is used as a tiebreak.

In previous rules, there were several tiebreak procedures, applied in the following order:

  1. The head-to-head record of all the tied teams is compared. The team(s) with the best record against the other tied teams win(s) the tiebreak.
  2. The team(s) with the fewest losses win(s) the tiebreak.
  3. The result of the Division Team Challenge (DTC) is used. The DTC is a lab-based activity where up to five team members worked together to solve a challenge in 15 minutes using the materials provided. The time for the DTC was extended to 30 minutes for 2008.

In years before that, there was no DTC, so the following procedure was used in its place:

  1. If more than two teams are still tied, each team is placed in a separate room and is read ten toss-up questions. Each team's score is determined by the number of questions answered correctly minus the number answered incorrectly. The team(s) with the highest score win(s) the tiebreak.
  2. If exactly two teams are still tied, the two teams compete head-to-head, receiving five toss-up questions (no bonus questions are used). All the usual toss-up rules are in effect, including the interrupt penalty. The team with the higher score wins the tiebreak.

If a tie still existed after this procedure, it is reapplied until the tie is resolved. These last rules are still used for the Middle School competition.

Single/Double elimination[edit]

Approximately 16 teams advance from the round robin (depending on the number of round robin groups). In 2004 and 2007, exactly 16 teams advanced, while in 2003 and 2002, 18 teams advanced. In 2006, the teams were seeded into a single-elimination tournament based on their preliminary round-robin results. In previous years, a team's position in the double-elimination tournament was determined by random draw; teams were not seeded in any way. The competition then proceeded (in 2006) like a typical single-elimination tournament. Seeding continued in the 2007 tournament: teams that won their pool were paired against teams that placed second in theirs. Unlike in the round robin, a match in double elimination cannot be tied. If a match is tied at the end of regulation, overtime periods of five questions each are played until the tie is broken.

The elimination tournament produces a first-place, second-place, third-place and fourth-place team. Except for the 2006 tournament, a double-elimination tournament format has been used. This allowed a fifth place to be added. The tournament reverted to a double-elimination format for the 2007 tournament, without a fifth place match.

Car competition[edit]

For the middle school teams, the DOE also sponsors a car competition challenging competitors to construct a car capable of attaining high speeds. They are powered through alternative energy sources such as hydrogen fuel cells and solar panels. The winners of the car competition are awarded with $500 for their school.

Sponsors[edit]

Several companies and organizations sponsor the National Science Bowl competition, the most prominent being the United States Department of Energy. Texas Instruments sponsors NSB and furnishes graphing calculators as prizes for the members of the top five teams. General Motors is also a regular sponsor of the event, and has in recent years sponsored the Hydrogen Fuel Cell Car competition held at NSB, where 16 teams compete to build the fastest or most powerful fuel cell-powered miniature car. IBM and Bechtel also sponsor the NSB.

Results of the national competition[edit]

The top four teams (out of 68) at the 2014 National Science Bowl were

  1. Mira Loma High School (Sacramento, California)
  2. Westview High School (Beaverton, Oregon)
  3. Regis High School (New York City)
  4. Baton Rouge Magnet High School (Baton Rouge, Louisiana)

The top four teams (out of 68) at the 2013 National Science Bowl were

  1. Mira Loma High School (Sacramento, California)
  2. North Carolina School of Science and Mathematics (Durham, North Carolina)
  3. Lexington High School (Lexington, Massachusetts)
  4. University High School (Irvine, California)

The top four teams (out of 69) at the 2012 National Science Bowl were

  1. Lexington High School (Lexington, Massachusetts)
  2. North Hollywood High School (North Hollywood, California)
  3. Mira Loma High School (Sacramento, California)
  4. Morgantown High School (Morgantown, West Virginia)

The top four teams (out of 69) at the 2011 National Science Bowl were

  1. Mira Loma High School (Sacramento, California)
  2. Montgomery Blair High School (Silver Spring, Maryland)
  3. Sunset High School (Portland, Oregon)
  4. Hunter College High School (New York, New York)

The top four teams (out of 68) at the 2010 National Science Bowl were

  1. North Carolina School of Science and Mathematics (Durham, North Carolina)
  2. Mira Loma High School (Sacramento, California)
  3. North Hollywood High School (North Hollywood, California)
  4. Arcadia High School (Arcadia, California)

The top four teams (out of 67) at the 2009 National Science Bowl were

  1. Mira Loma High School (Sacramento, California)
  2. Lexington High School (Lexington, Massachusetts)
  3. Oak Ridge High School (Oak Ridge, Tennessee)
  4. Santa Monica High School (Santa Monica, California)

The full double elimination bracket for the 2009 tournament is shown below:

DE Bowl 2009.PNG

The top four teams (out of 67) at the 2008 National Science Bowl were

  1. Santa Monica High School (Santa Monica, California)
  2. Mira Loma High School (Sacramento, California)
  3. Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology (Alexandria, Virginia)
  4. Fairview High School (Boulder, Colorado)

The top four teams (out of 64) at the 2007 National Science Bowl were

  1. Poudre High School (Fort Collins, Colorado)
  2. State College Area High School (State College, Pennsylvania)
  3. East Chapel Hill High School (Chapel Hill, North Carolina)
  4. Miami Palmetto Senior High School (Pinecrest, Florida)

The top four teams (out of 65) at the 2006 National Science Bowl were

  1. State College Area High School (State College, Pennsylvania)
  2. North Hollywood High School (North Hollywood, California)
  3. Santa Monica High School (Santa Monica, California)
  4. Albany High School (Albany, California)

The top five teams (out of 63) at the 2005 National Science Bowl were

  1. Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology (Alexandria, Virginia)
  2. Mission San Jose High School (Fremont, California)
  3. George Walton Comprehensive High School (Marietta, Georgia)
  4. Miami Palmetto Senior High School (Pinecrest, Florida)
  5. Thomas S. Wootton High School (Rockville, Maryland)

The top five teams (out of 64) at the 2004 National Science Bowl were

  1. Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology (Alexandria, Virginia)
  2. A&M Consolidated High School (College Station, Texas)
  3. Baton Rouge Magnet High School (Baton Rouge, Louisiana)
  4. Montgomery Blair High School (Silver Spring, Maryland)
  5. North Hollywood High School (North Hollywood, California)

The full double elimination bracket from the 2004 competition is shown below. The bracket was unseeded (as in most years), i.e. positions in the draw were chosen randomly among qualifying teams. Red numbers are not seed numbers, but match numbers to be used for reference in the bottom half of the bracket (the loser's bracket).

National Science Bowl 2004 playoff bracket

The top five teams (out of 66) at the 2003 National Science Bowl were

  1. Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology (Alexandria, Virginia)
  2. Centerville High School (Centerville, Ohio)
  3. A&M Consolidated High School (College Station, Texas)
  4. Taylor Allderdice High School (Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania)
  5. Cincinnati Country Day School (Cincinnati, Ohio)

The full double elimination bracket from the 2003 competition is shown below. The bracket was unseeded (as in most years), i.e. positions in the draw were chosen randomly among qualifying teams. Red numbers are not seed numbers, but match numbers to be used for reference in the bottom half of the bracket (the loser's bracket).

National Science Bowl 2003 playoff bracket

The top five teams (out of 64) at the 2002 National Science Bowl were

  1. Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology (Alexandria, Virginia)
  2. Boulder High School (Boulder, Colorado)
  3. Mission San Jose High School (Fremont, California) (note: this is the correct spelling of Fremont. The NSB website gives "Freemont".)
  4. Sycamore High School (Cincinnati, Ohio)
  5. Hanford High School (Richland, Washington)

The winning teams from the years 1991-2001 were

See also[edit]

References[edit]

External links[edit]