Academic clubs prepare to host respective competitions

February 1, 2022 — by Jonny Luo, Nikhil Mathihalli, and Aiden Ye
Photo by Jonny Luo
School clubs plan to host upcoming academic competitions.
Science Club, Math Club, Science Bowl and Quiz Bowl prepare to organize and compete in academic competitions during the second semester

As spring semester starts, several clubs are planning to host national academic competitions on campus. Science Club plans to host the F=ma and USA Biolympiad (USABO) exams, Math Club will hold the American Invitational Mathematics Examination  (AIME) competition, and both the Quiz Bowl and Science Bowl teams are preparing for their upcoming competitions. 


Science club hosts the F=ma and USABO exams

Science Club is hosting the USABO competition on Feb. 3. The competition is online, but the club will have students take the test on their laptops in science teacher Cheryl Lenz’s room. According to junior club president Nidhi Mathihalli, 20 students have signed up for the exam. 

The club is also hosting the F=ma physics competition, an annual competition organized by the American Association of Physics Teachers (AAPT), in person on Feb. 9 and 15. The exam consists of 25 questions about physics mechanics. In recent years, except for last year due to COVID-19, the AAPT has written two versions of the test, and will do so this year as well. Students will have 75 minutes to solve as many questions as they can, and top scorers on the test are invited to participate in the USA Physics Olympiad (USAPhO). Roughly 400 of 6,000 students who take the test yearly qualify for the USAPhO.

“One of the biggest things that’s different this year is that, in previous years, people only had to qualify on one of [versions of the test] to make it to this year,” Mathihalli said. “But this year, if a student decides to take both exams, that student must get a qualifying score through both exams in order to qualify for the USAPhO, so there’s no real advantage to taking both of them.” 

The club has also hosted prep sessions during normal club lunch meetings where officers discuss tips for taking the USABO and F=ma, along with going over a few practice problems. 

“We believe it’s a good thing [to host sessions] because we’ve done it in past years, and it’s helped students,” said Mathihalli. “On top of that, a lot of students haven’t gotten as much practice in because of shifting schedules, so we’re hoping that this will help them.”


Math Club hosts the AIME

After the school hosted the AMC 10/12 A and B exams on Nov. 10 and Nov. 16,  respectively, math club will be hosting the AIME on Feb. 8. 

Every year, those who score over the cutoff score in either the AMC 10/12 A or AMC 10/12 B are invited to take the AIME. According to math club co-president Nilay Mishra, a slight majority of students who take the AMC exams at SHS are invited to take the AIME 

The AIME competition will be held in the school library from 10:30 a.m. to 2:30pm. Despite COVID-19 concerns, Mishra is hopeful that the competition will be held in person and not online. 

In the previous two years, Math Club also hosted AMC 10/12 and AIME competitions online, where students joined a proctored Zoom meeting to minimize cheating.

“We are prioritizing testing in person because it’s a better experience for all the contestants, and it’s less prone to glitches and technical errors,” Mishra said. “And, although it’s not a big factor at our school, there is a certain degree of cheating in online competitions, which can be prevented [through an in-person format].” 

Math club will also be sending teams to both the Carnegie Mellon Informatics and Mathematics Competition (CMIMC) on Feb. 26 and the Caltech Harvey Mudd Math Competition (CHMMC) on April 2. Both competitions will be held online due to the pandemic. 


Science Bowl prepares for upcoming regional competition

The Science Bowl team has been preparing for their upcoming competition on Feb. 12, which  will also be held over Zoom.

Instead of the traditional head-to-head buzzer contests where competitors race to answer questions on chemistry, biology, physics and mathematics before the other team, the competition now provides longer time limits to answer questions and doesn’t facilitate direct competition. Moderators read the same questions to each team separately and the teams with the highest number of points after each round advances to the next round, meaning that the competition places a greater emphasis on knowledge rather than speed.

Senior club officer Jeffrey Hu has been a part of Science Bowl since his freshman year, and dislikes the online format 

“I think it takes away a lot of the fun of being able to buzz, which in my opinion is the best aspect,” Hu said.

This year, the team hopes to qualify for the National Finals for the first time. To qualify, the team must place first in the regional competition. Although they have never qualified for the national competition, the team has placed second in regionals.

This year, the team’s star players include senior Jeffrey Hu, juniors Nilay Mishra, Anthony Wang and Adam Xu and sophomore Advaith Avadhanam.

“We’ve been pretty close to nationals in previous years,” Hu said. “I know that if our team continues to practice diligently, we will definitely have a good shot at qualifying.”


Quiz Bowl hopes to carry success into Cal Cup 3

As the California Cup 3 tournament approaches, the school’s  three Quiz Bowl teams hope to find similar success after solid performances in California Cup 2 and placing second at  California Cup 1.

Quiz Bowl operates on a similar system as the traditional Science Bowl system, where two teams of four face off, racing to buzz and answer trivia problems. However, the topics covered in Quiz Bowl are broader, focusing not only on science, but also mythology, literature, history, fine arts and more.

The competition is divided between three divisions: novice, standard and competitive. Typically, the best team from each school is placed into competitive, where they compete against other top teams from the region while aiming for a high rank in the national competition. Newer members are usually placed into novice, where they are given easier problem sets and less difficult opponents, so they can better acclimate to the Quiz Bowl environment.

The third CalCup, unlike the previous two, will be held in-person at Saint Francis High School. It will be a new environment for young members who have never competed at an in-person Quiz Bowl tournament.

Regardless of whether Calcup 3 is in person or online, junior club president Anthony Wang is confident that the competitive team can get another first place finish at this upcoming competition to follow their second place finish in the first competition and win at the second.

“I feel that we kind of choked the first competition, since there was a bit of missing chemistry between our team members; however we definitely performed better this time,” Wang said. 

The competitive team going to the national competition High School National Championship Tournament (HSNCT) will consist of six members — four players and two subs, so teams can sub out members on the second day of the competition in case of mental fatigue. Tentatively, the members slated to attend HSNCT seniors Siddharth Kamannavar, Aahaan Singh and juniors Anthony Wang, Adam Xu, Nilay Mishra and Nithya Krishna.

Wang is hopeful about their prospects: “I’m sure we’ll perform well in HSNCT, and since our team has a lot of juniors, we’ll be even better next year.”

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