Inaugural science bowl team exceeds meager expectations

February 5, 2011 — by Abhishek Venkataramana

“Toss up. Chemistry. Multiple Choice. Which of the following types of reactions occurs at the anode of a Galvanic cell—”

Buzz.

“Interrupt, A-2 Captain.”

“Oxidation?”

“That is correct.”

This is just one of the many questions answered by the science bowl team during its inaugural competition in Livermore on Jan. 29.

“I always get really excited when the topic of the question is chemistry because that’s the easiest topic for me,” junior team captain David Eng said. “And when I heard ‘anode’ and ‘Galvanic’ I was doubly excited because I just studied that the morning of the competition.”

Juniors Hansen Qian, Alissa Zhang and Myron Zhang and sophomore Amanda Chow rounded out the team and each contributed their own specialties to the group effort. Chow, Qian and Alissa Zhang provided significant breadth of knowledge from their AP Physics course and Myron Zhang was the only team member enrolled in AP Biology.

“Since it was their first time competing, I would have just been happy if they won a few matches,” said AP Chemistry teacher and science bowl coach Kathy Nakamatsu. “I didn’t expect them to make the playoffs, so it was a nice pleasant surprise.”

Nakamatsu had coached science bowl at her two previous schools, Monte Vista-Danville High and Mills High, but said this is the farthest her team has ever gotten in the competition.

Nakamatsu hosted Friday after-school practice sessions for the month preceding the event, at which team members grew accustomed to the intricacies of the competition, such as question format and most importantly—buzzing the buzzers.

“We had excellent team dynamics,” Myron Zhang said. “We each had our particular area of expertise, and we melded that together with some quick thinking and some button-smashing skills and we managed to bring it all together.”

In the end, Saratoga High played seven rounds, posting a record of 4-2-1 and advancing to the second round of a four-round playoff. The team’s marquee victories included a comeback 88-36 victory over Livermore High to clinch a playoff spot and a blowout 142-66 victory over science bowl powerhouse Irvington High for their first-round playoff win. The team was finally knocked out in the second round by Foothill High School. League powerhouse Mission San Jose went on to win the tournament and advance to the national competition.

“It was at one time exhilarating and at another time nerve-racking, and finally at the very end, we left with a sense of satisfaction that befits our ranking inside the competition,” Myron Zhang said.

This year, the team was selected based on a qualification exam administered in early December. Next year, the science club hopes to hold tryouts earlier to qualify a second team to play, as team selection is on a first-come-first-served basis.

“There’s no reason that Saratoga High shouldn’t have a science bowl team to rival Bellarmine’s or Mission San Jose’s,” Eng said. “I have high hopes for the future.”