California students win 2020 DOE National Science Bowl

By Paul Rhien

Thursday, August 27, 2020

National champions emerge from Sandia-sponsored regional competition

science bowl winners
2020 NATIONAL SCIENCE BOWL CHAMPS — A Sandia-sponsored team of students from Dougherty Valley High School in San Ramon, California, won the 2020 DOE National Science Bowl. (Photo courtesy of DOE)

A team of students from Dougherty Valley High School in San Ramon, California, won the 2020 DOE National Science Bowl in June. Due to COVID-19, this year’s national competition was held virtually to ensure the health and safety of the participating students.

The National Science Bowl, a Jeopardy-like competition for U.S. high school and middle school students, tests their knowledge and academic ability in all areas of science and mathematics.

Before facing a field of more than 60 teams in the national tournament, the San Ramon students emerged victorious at the Sandia-sponsored Bay Area Regional High School Science Bowl, held at Las Positas College in Livermore in the spring.

For nearly 30 years, Sandia/California has coordinated and sponsored regional high school and middle school competitions, bringing together science bowl teams from across northern California. These regional contests are funded through an Educational Success Grant awarded by Sandia to the Las Positas College Foundation.

The members of the winning DVHS team are Risha Chakraborty, Anugrah Chemparathy, Kenneth Moon, Venkat Ranjan and Daniel Shen. Coached by Katherine Huang, a science teacher at DVHS, the students were elated to receive $2,500 for their school’s science department. As the 2020 national champions, the students also will be invited to attend the 2021 national finals in Washington, D.C., as special guests and will be recognized for their achievements in the 2021 awards ceremony.

“Dougherty Valley is historically a very strong team and has won our regional high school competition for the past seven years,” said Tim Shepodd, a senior manager at Sandia and lead of the Sandia/California Science Bowl Committee. “They have consistently done well nationally. With multiple returning members experienced in the Science Bowl competition, to walk away as national champions was a nice going-away present for those seniors.”

Rigorous study, complex topics

The DVHS team defeated Mira Loma High School students from Sacramento by answering the following energy question: “Scientists at Ames Lab are studying twisted bilayer graphene. Identify all of the following three statements that are true of this material: (1) It can act as an insulator. (2) It can act as a superconductor. (3) It demonstrates a Moiré pattern.” (The correct answer is “All.”)

regional science bowl team members
REPEAT REGIONAL CHAMPIONS — Pictured last year, students from Dougherty Valley High School won the 2019 Sandia/California High School Regional Science Bowl. The same team won the regional competition in 2020 and continued on to become the national champions. Team members are, from left, Daniel Shen, Risha Chakraborty (team captain), Kenneth Moon, Venkat Ranjan, Anugrah Chemparathy and Katherine Huang (coach). (Photo by Ray Ng)

By the time a team reaches the final rounds of the National Science Bowl, the students are often dealing with graduate-school-level topics, Tim said.

“To compete and win at the national level, teams must prepare all year. They undergo a rigorous study process so that they are ready to answer questions in a wide range of topics, including biology, chemistry, Earth science, physics, energy and math.”

Given the uncertainty of the COVID-19 pandemic, organizers for the 2021 regional and national Science Bowl events are again preparing to hold the competitions virtually, if necessary. The potential for the online format means that more volunteers will be needed.

“Volunteers are essential for a meaningful and fair competition,” Tim said. “They help bring the excitement of science to the next generation of scientists. Whether as moderators, scorekeepers, timekeepers or other roles, our volunteers will only become more important next year.”

Visit Sandia’s Community Involvement website to learn more about DOE Regional Science Bowls in New Mexico and California, as well as other educational programs that are inspiring the next generation of scientists and engineers.